Director: Matt Reeves
A decade after mankind was decimated by a deadly virus, a small colony of survivors in San Francisco are running out of fuel. Malcolm (Clarke) travels into the surrounding forest with a small group of followers to survey the state of a nearby hydroelectric dam, where they come face to face with group of evolved apes, who have developed and created their own community. Led by Caesar (Serkis), they demand that humans and apes keep their distance from each other, but both sides begin to plot the destruction of each other. While Caesar agrees to help Malcolm repair the dam, his right-hand-ape Koba plots to attack the humans, while in the survivors’ camp, their leader Dreyfus (Oldman) plans to lead an offensive against the apes.
The community the apes have created resembles a primitive human culture. Creating a fortress on high ground from wood, the apes have evolved apart from humans, even if their language and gestures have been borrowed from them. While humanity struggles to adapt to the changed world, the apes are evolved to it perfectly. The humans comment that the apes’ advantage is that they do not require heat and power to survive and the films underlines how modern man has evolved to harness nature en masse, but once the masses recede, they would regress due to their complacent dominance to be reliant on resources they can no longer harvest. As a result, the apes can only strengthen in mankind’s decline.
The humans’ story is almost irrelevant in the face of the apes and as such it’s somewhat apt that there are no starry turns to distract from the real stars of the show. Oldman and Clarke give us little more than we’d expect from your standard apocalypse-survivors, but it’s Serkis’ Caesar that steals the show. And surprisingly, the cinematography gets its moments to shine too; sweeping vistas, burning infernos and torrential rain all give to a more atmospheric depiction of post-apocalyptic world, while the production design of the apes' wooden fortress is gloriously rudimentary. The world that the franchise is laying out for us is only gradually moving toward the 'Planet of the Apes' that we know is to come and by only drip-feeding us prequels instead of hurtling toward it like a freight train, the subtlety lends to a franchise that has surprised everyone with its quality. It turns out that Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is the best summer blockbuster has to offer... who'd have thought, eh?