The newly rebooted saga, which began with Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)and continues this month with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, has captured the spirit and thrill of the original films. Dawn picks up the story 10 years after Rise,where the apes escaped captivity,rampaged along the Golden Gate Bridge,headed up into the hills. Project Nim could be said to have inspired the new reboot of which Dawn is sequel. Rise showed the beginnings of the ape rebellion in which Andy Serkis did a stunning mo-cap performance,displacing Franco as the star.I loved this superb film,directed by Matt Reeves, now contracted to do the 3rd reboot.
A rule in acting is don't play against animals or children (or mo-cap).We have to acknowledge that this computer-filtered form of acting,reveals it in a new light, putting actors playing humans in the shade.They can't compete: this film anthropomorphizes apes more than its predecessor.We see how close apes are to humans.How Serkis' eyes and muscle- movements come through clearly.His slow movements show authority.He taps roots of emotion,gravitas, pathos,solidarity with the ape community,empathy with the human survivors,sentiment with his family group.Apes ride horses,shoot guns,drink alcohol,love,cry,are nostalgic about their childhood,walk upright,speak.They also show similar vices of militarism,aggression. Both species are now vying for dominance.
As leader,Caesar is forced to confront the mistrust of apes as well as the humans,all of whom threaten to destroy each other. When the apes discover a settlement of humans not far from the forest,they are torn between those led by Caesar,who want to help them and those led by Koba(Toby Kebbell) who want to kill them.It seems when communicating with each other they use sign language(which is subtitled).But speak louder in human language when assertive or angry."Apes do not want war", Caesar's first communication uttered to the community of humans from his apes massed on horseback. A central tenet of ape society is " Ape does not kill ape", however that core principle is later overturned as ape turns on ape,as Koba strives to become leader and kill humans,after shooting Caesar.
Humans are living in post-apocalyptic wretchedness,short of food,fuel,electricity.A virus(wrongly blamed on the apes) has wiped out huge swathes of population.Their leader is Dreyfus(Oldman, the go-to actor for playing authority figures).The humans are also somewhat underwhelming in the film.Malcolm(Jason Clarke) with his partner Ellie (Keri Russell) must figure out how to build their trust to gain access to the dam. Malcolm and Caesar share similar gentleness and ambivalence,mirroring each other's family grouping.The film has rugged action sequences, extraordinary CGI, mo-cap in wild environments,simian teeth-baring,swaying and screeching.Terrifying scenes of people scurrying for safety as invaders round them up;apes on horseback traversing the dark woods or flying through the tree-tops,hunting deer,killing a bear; the mass attack with them riding tanks,blowing up defences.
Mo-cap acting serves animated features up to a computer.The speech acts come in bite-sized chunks," Apes together strong", "Caesar loves humans more than apes". They almost speak like Apaches in old westerns.This is necessary,we are talking about different species.We could be talking about races. In times of intense blood bath in the Middle East, this excellent sequel seems tailor-made to reflect the present conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The scarred Koba is a scourge of humans, a terrorist leader.Kebell projects malevolence brilliantly. Like Serkis he fuses human and ape. Good sci-fi should hold up a mirror to humanity and reflect our own conflicts, issues and failings back to us through a wildly outrageous premise. Splendidly energizing,darker and definitely more cool.