Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

STUPEFYINGLY VIOLENT: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
STUPEFYINGLY VIOLENT: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (M)
Directed by Matt Reeves

I'll tell anyone who'll listen that the whole point of being a film reviewer is to be able to appreciate a movie that you don't actually like very much.

My mantra was sorely tested at a preview screening on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Dawn' picks up the action ten years after the events of the 2011 Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The artificial virus that gave Caesar the chimp his Mensa membership has spread through the apes of the world, who have all trebled their IQ's and built themselves a civilisation. But the same virus has mutated, and wiped out nearly the entire human population. We learn all this via a deft and understated opening credit sequence. 

And that will be the last time this review requires the words "deft", or "understated".

From here on in, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is non-stop conflict and histrionics. First as a small band of humans encounter Caesar and his tribe, and then as parallel insurrections arise in the apes' and the humans' societies. Some in each group want war, some peace. A series of bombastic scraps breaks out.

The visual effects here are stupendously good, while the onscreen and mo-cap cast all turn in admirable work. Andy Serkis and Jason Clarke are the ape and human leaders, with Gary Oldman not stretching himself at all as the chief baddie of the piece, and Keri Russell in the thankless and underwritten role of Clarke's wife.

This is a hugely competent film, with story-telling nous to match it's huge technical achievement. But Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is also ceaselessly, stupefyingly violent, and though I respect the quality of the film making, I find it hard to enjoy a film that is at once so ridiculously silly, and yet so completely humourless. By the end, I felt more beaten up than entertained.