|Starring||Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Toby Kebbell, Kirk Acevedo|
|Release||11 JUL (US) 17 JUL (UK) Certificate 12A|
It's a shame, then, that Clarke and co feel so redundant as a result. Clarke's character Malcolm is the 'nice guy' who doesn't actually have any character - he's a convenient plot chess piece who's moved around depending on where the action is. His son, played by The Road's Kodi Smit-McPhee, is an entirely pointless inclusion. His thing is that he sketches, which teaches the apes about, I don't know, art or something? Big fucking deal Picasso, get the fuck out of the movie. Keri Russell's Ellie is the kind of useless female love interest that's so anonymous you need to look up her character name on IMDB; an Apes drinking game in which you did a shot every time she yells "Malcolm!" would have you paralytic before the end credits. She performs one helpful function in this movie. One.
Gary Oldman is an actor who can elevate poor material by his presence alone, but he's robbed of a decent character arc here when he goes missing for a good 45 minutes in the middle section. He does have one wonderful moment of catharsis involving an unguarded moment with an iPad, but that's your lot from Gary Oldman: Actor.
Otherwise, Dawn is an all-singing, all-dancing, all-screeching monkeyfest and all the better for it. There is a stellar scene in which Koba leads a band of apes into war against the human blockade that features not only heart-breaking shots of scared-looking chimps under fire and cowering behind cars, but also the mind-blowing sight of a monkey on horseback erratically firing a machine gun from each hand, literally going apeshit. Usually giving a character a gun in any given situation is the quickest and least satisfying thing you can do to generate threat, but as soon as the apes are armed, the tension is ratcheted up a notch. One of them even drives a tank. Yup.
Reeves does well to open up his movie to accommodate his simian stars, and though he stages action well in expansive environments that are beautifully rendered (then tarnished by terrible, gloomy 3D), the real genius of his camerawork is invisible – the panning, lurching and swooping that follows characters that aren't even there. It should not be so easily forgotten than 90% of Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes' character roster does not actually exist; Reeves works with a fluidity that has you convinced otherwise.
This is undoubtedly a technical masterpiece, among the very best examples of motion-captured movies – but it is flawed in terms of content. The set-up is great, and the first time you hear the apes talk is just as frightening as in Rise, but the movie barrels towards the pre-requisite Final Action Sequence, armed with plenty of firepower but not the knowledge that the entire sequence is unnecessary. There must have been a smarter, more satisfactory way to end this sequel than getting all the principle characters in one location along with a bomb.
The screenplay by Mark Bomback and Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver shows plenty of intelligence up until the point it's required to play dumb. The final set-piece is the equivalent of the YouTube monkey smelling his finger and falling out of his tree.