Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

Art & Culture

I have lost count of how many Planet Of The Apes  movies there have been, and to be honest with you, I've never cared that much. There just seem to have been an awful lot. And while this film's prequel Rise of the Planet of the Apes had sufficient energy and originality to stir a flicker of enthusiasm in me, DOTPOTA is a return to the bad old days of clunky dialogue and 2 dimensional actors – the humans, that is. The apes are positively eloquent, as long as they don't speak. Which they do.

Just in case you haven't fully recalled the details of ROTPOTA, it's supposedly where all this started, when a potential cure for Alzheimer's was tested on a smart ape called Caesar, but it didn't quite go as planned, and before you could say "Tarzan', there were a lot of very hacked off apes, liberated from animal testing centres, going ape shit on Golden Gate Bridge.

Time has moved on. The human race has mostly been wiped out by what has become known as simian flu, with a few survivors holed up in one corner of San Francisco. Meanwhile, up in the hills above the city, there is a peace-loving tribe of apes led by Caesar (Andy Serkis), who has a sidekick with a bad attitude, a son without the brains and confidence needed of Caesar's son, and a wife with a newborn who's not recovering.

The humans, meanwhile are running out of power, and the only source they can think of is at the dam above the waterfall which is (oh no!) right next to the ape encampment. The first meeting between ape and man is unfortunate. Man goes ape, ape gets shot, apes go ape. But the Good Guy (Jason Clarke) and the Good Guy's girlfriend (Keri Russell), manage to smooth things over. However, the guy who shot the ape and hates the hairy bastards (his term) also seems to be the only one who can make the dam work again, so they have to take him with them on the second trip, which you just know is going to cause trouble. Just as Caesar's bad tempered henchman Koba is determined that humans are bad, so Carver (the token bolshie idiotic human) is determined that the only good ape is a dead ape.

And essentially, these two are the only reason why the humans and apes end up fighting each other, which in my opinion, is pretty lame. My other serious reservation is that the plot is a lift from Dances With Wolves. Bloke goes to enemy encampment, finds that the natives are basically friendly (though one of them isn't), and buddies up, preferring the company of the other tribe to his own, before it all ends in blood sweat and tears, with Decent Chap trying vainly to stop the conflict.

In the middle of all this, Gary Oldman continues his inexplicable career as a Hollywood nonentity, mostly off screen, but utterly failing to illuminate it when he's on. As for the gender politics, don't get me started. Women are weak and fallible creatures, either giving birth, being nurturing or gazing at their men with big worshipping eyes. It was ever thus.

The only redeeming feature is the further advance in technology that allows the apes to look so believably real, with facial expressions and movements that mimic life. Andy Serkis rules the film as he rules his tribe, but even he can't make the script and plot any more palatable or credible. I think we have to assume that there will yet another in this endless series (45 years and counting), but if they're going to go to so much trouble to make the apes look convincing, please can someone do the same with the humans.