After the bad reboot of the franchise by Tim Burton it seemed that it wasn’t possible to breath new life into this old movie series. My expectations for Rise of the Planet of the Apes was extremely low, but the movie managed to surprise me in an extremely positive way and even ended up in my top 10 of 2011. I was looking forward to the sequel and wondered if it could retain the high quality of the first film.
This second part is set a couple of years after the events of the first movie in which the apes became intelligent and moved into the wilderness, with their leader Caesar (Andy Serkis). The apes have now set up their own community in the woods and in the past few years a virus has killed a large part of the human population. Only those who were immune have managed to survive. The apes and people live separately and don’t interact, but when the people of San Francisco are running out of energy they have to send a small group of people into the woods to restore power from a generator located there. It results in a confrontation between apes and people which could have far-reaching consequences.
The imagery of “Rise” was of high quality. The computer generated apes (based on motion capture) are even more spectacular (and convincing) in this second installment. As a viewer you know you should be rooting for the humans to “win, but I noticed I was having mixed feelings about that and that says a lot about the quality of the movie. The “acting” of the apes is stunning and thanks to the interesting interaction with the humans there is a constant sense of tension. That tension also exists within the groups. For the humans it is between Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) and for the apes it is Caesar en Koba (Toby Kebbell). Both Caesar and Malcom see that the groups could co-exist but also see that the values of their respective groups have a strong influence on what will happen.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is strong sequel with a good mix of both drama and action. It manages to engage for its two-hour running time. Some daring choices have been made (like the sign language which is used a lot in the movie) which have payed off. I hope that the third installment will be of the same quality.