Man v Ape: Another rumble in the urban jungle

Man v Ape

Some 15 years have passed since last we visited this alternative planet and humans are not doing so well. The apes, however, are prospering. How long until war breaks out, then, between primates? 

This American science-fiction film is the sequel to the 2011 movie, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It is the eighth film in a series built around the original 1968 movie, Planet of the Apes.

The sequel is set 15 years after the events of the first film, and follows ten years after a lot of humanity has been wiped out by a flu epidemic.

The apes have evolved, and have increased massively in numbers. They think they are alone on the planet, and they live in relative harmony with each other.

Unexpectedly, they come into contact with a group of humans who have managed to survive the virus. When they meet, a fragile peace is forged, but it doesn't last. Both apes and humans become enemies, and move forward - in human-like fashion - to do battle with each other.

The mixture of motivations among humans and apes is complex. Gary Oldman is Dreyfus, the leader of the surviving humans, and he wants revenge on the apes for the death of his wife and sons, who caught the virus.

Andy Serkis reprises his role as leader of the apes and voices Caesar, the king of the ape colony, but Caesar has a ruthless advisor, Koba (Toby Kebbel), who thinks that his leader has become too friendly toward the humans.

Koba betrays Caesar and takes control. Tensions spill over when Caesar's commanding officer and trusted friend, Maurice (Karin Konoval), together with his loyal supporters are captured and held hostage, while a frenzied battle between humans and apes goes on around them.

The humans are divided about their predicament. Some are resentful, like Dreyfus, while others are sympathetic to the apes. Malcolm (Jason Clarke) forms an attachment to Caesar and his group, while Ellie (Keri Russell), Malcolm's second wife - his first wife fell victim to the virus - has the medical knowledge to know that the apes were not responsible for what happened and the human deaths that have occurred. 

Matt Reeves, the director of the film, works hard to humanise the apes, and he succeeds admirably. He turns the apes into interesting characters one comes to care for. When humans and apes appear together on the screen they both look 'human,' even when apes are shown riding on horseback with guns held aloft in their hands. The movie is quite violent in parts, but it is technically outstanding, and is superior in its effects to what its immediate predecessor achieved.

The Rise of the Planet of the Apes used state-of-the-art photography (performance-capture technology) to facilitate the attribution of human traits to animals, and this movie uses the same process, and gets it even better.

Basically, this is a film showing the drama of conflicts experienced by those wanting to go to war, and it uses intelligent, talking apes to drive its messages home.

As before, it is the apes that steal the show. With the effective help of colour contrast, what used to be San Francisco has become a wasteland of buildings covered in rust and foliage. Since the virus, the apes have prospered, but humans are in social collapse, and the film intriguingly shows the apes as observers of the devastation humans have created.

This film, being action-oriented, is a blockbuster of special effects, and there will no doubt be many sequels in the future. As the movie tells us, 'all-out war has (only) just begun.'

This is a highly entertaining follow-up to its 2011 predecessor. While not conceptually ambitious, it is technically spectacular. Its special effects, photography, and atmospheric set designs are well worth experiencing, and they look great in 3D.

Dawn of Planet of the Apes 3D, starring: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Gary Oldman, Toby Kebbel, and Karin Konoval. Directed by Matt Reeves. Rated M (Violence and infrequent coarse language). 130 min. 20th. Century Fox. Screening now.

- Reviewed by Peter W. Sheehan, associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting

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