Following the critical acclaim that the 2011 prequel to “Apes” franchise, “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes”, it was inevitable that a sequel would follow… and I’m glad to say that this story builds upon the firm foundations of its predecessor.
Set ten years after the events of “Rise”, this film sees the human race on the brink of self destruction in the aftermath of the Simian Flu. With the remaining population of San Francisco requiring an alternative source of energy due to nuclear and fossil fuel stocks diminishing, their aim to use a hydroelectric power station brings them into conflict with Caesar (the hero from the first film) and his colony of genetically evolved apes.
I’m going to go unashamedly into geek mode and say that I loved the “Apes” franchise of films as a kid. I remember watching the original “Planet Of The Apes” film and being fascinated about how the film was made plus THAT ending will still remain one of the most powerful climaxes that I’ve seen on film.
Gone are the prosthetics and shock value to be replaced with, as in the case of “Rise”, a new film in the “Apes” canon uses sci-fi as a window on to the contemporary world. During the course of the film, you get a commentary on the issue of the world’s resources running out alongside the validity of going into armed conflict and how this can be perverted based on the say-so of who’s in charge of a government or regime at the time and why it’s important to trust the person, rather than the perception of their background. In midst of this, you also get a clever little revenge tragedy that would be worthy of a plot by Shakespeare.
The script written by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver and Mark Bomback is equally as clever in beginning to tie together the strands from this new franchise and the classic series of films albeit with some slight differences. You still see the apes not only having set a colony but a distinct society. However, where the orang-utans, such as Doctor Zaius, were the leaders of the original films they are now the intellectuals led by Maurice (a clever reference to Maurice Evans who portrayed Zaius) whilst the chimpanzees are not only the general populace, but the elite represented by Caesar and his family and his second in command, Koba. The gorillas are still the “muscle”, but even this is changed slightly, as they show that they are not solely the militaristic blockheads that are portrayed as in the classic films.
Jason Clarke takes on the lead human hero duties following James Franco from the original movie. His character of Malcolm, along with the majority of his team, give an insight of the human potential to be the best that it can be. Although it’s mentioned the film, you are made aware that the character has lost a great deal between the two films and this informs his decision making processes – especially when it comes to the character’s son, Alexander, as portrayed by Kodi Smit-McPhee (“Let The Right One In”). He wants to co-exist with the apes despite the need to enter their territory and wants to seek the peaceful solution from the outset of the film.
Keri Russell is the human’s emotional heartbeat of the film in the role of Ellie. It was clever plot device making the character a doctor – not from the perspective of the Simian flu virus, but because her humanity as a doctor affords her a way in to showing Caesar that not all humans desire war.
Andy Serkis reprises his role of Caesar and pretty much picks up where he left off investing the role with humanity and nobility. He also manages to give the character a sense of internal conflict as he is torn between his obligations to the apes and his past friendship to Franco’s character in the first film. This conflict is played out with the character’s son, Blue Eyes, and his number two, Koba, who people that saw the first film will remember as the laboratory ape who has an antipathy to humans due to their treatment of him (a plot device that serves as THE big driver for this film).
Gary Oldman gives a solid performance in the role of San Francisco’s leader, Dreyfus. He manages to give the character a noble desperation in so much that Dreyfus will do anything to keep his society together. Whilst the character could be seen as a bit of a warmonger, there are points throughout the film which highlights his humanity and sense of loss – particularly the scene when the power returns to San Francisco and he sees his family photos on his iPad.
Kirk Acevedo gives a small, but significant performance in the role of Carver. His fear and distrust of the apes (stemming from what he has lost due to the virus) serves as the main spark for this film – not only through the conflict it engenders but also for Koba’s rise to power within the apes society.
Oldman’s and Acevedo’s equivalent in the apes camp is the aforementioned Koba, as portrayed by Toby Kebbell. Kebbell builds upon the hatred that the character of Koba has for humans which warps him into the true villain of the piece, albeit one whose motivations are understandable given the treatment meted out to him in his backstory prior to “Rise”. He also invests the character with a sense of cunning which is seen by him playing the fool only to get information on the humans and, to shocking effect, when he kills two humans with their own weaponry. If there was ever a “Hawk” to Caesar’s or Maurice’s “Dove”, then it is definitely Koba.
This film walks a fine line with trying to give both the humans and apes society a sense of fragile hope, but with the knowledge of what is to come by the time “Planet Of The Apes” happens the plot itself (especially the ending) provides a sense of foreboding that a full on conflict will be played out, no doubt in the sequel which is due for release in 2016.
If you’re a fan of the classic “Apes” films, the new “Apes” franchise or dystopic television series such as the BBC series “Survivors”, you will no doubt enjoy this film. But, it’s also a film that is accessible for a wider audience as it speaks of contemporary society using “science fiction” trappings.
Rating: Get In The Queue