Star Rating:

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Actors: Keri Russell, Gary Oldman

Release Date: Saturday 30th November 2013

Running time: 130 minutes

Rebooting the Apes franchise after Tim Burton’s cacophonous mess wasn’t really all that surprising, but what was unexpected was just how good 2011’s Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes turned out to be. Not resting on their laurels, the director and most of the cast have been tossed out, with Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) stepping behind the camera, and a great list of character actors instead of some stunt casting (ahem, James Franco, cough cough, Tom Felton) out in front.

It’s been ten years since the Simian Flu wiped out most of humanity, and two years since an ape has laid eyes on a single human. Caesar (Andy Serkis) has created and maintained a mostly peaceful existence with his fellow apes, until they encounter some folk – including family unit Jason Clarke, Keri Russell and Kodi Smit-McPhee – who want to restart a hydro-dam which just happens to be smack-bang in the middle of ape territory. Caesar and the nice humans want to resolve this peacefully, but men-hating apes such as Caesar’s second-in-command Koba (Toby Kebbell) and some ape-hating men (including human leader Gary Oldman) are itching for a fight.

At times almost unbearably tense, director Reeves manages to stretch out the heightened stakes for as long as possible without once becoming boring, while still developing an almost Shakespearian tragedy within the apes camp. Once again, you find yourself forgetting that you’re watching mostly digital performances, with Serkis’ pacifist but far from weak leader matched scene for scene by Kebbell’s terrifying but all too understandable antagonist. If anything it’s the humans who get short thrift this time, with the monkey-haters portrayed in as few dimensions as possible, and the monkey-lovers constantly on the verge of tears at just how misunderstood the apes are.

Then when things finally kick off – and we all knew that they would – it’s nothing short of amazing. Reeves controls the mayhem with precision and ease; his eye for jaw-dropping visuals (check out Koba riding the out of control tank!) coupled with his ability to push the narrative forward mid-action scene will have you right off the edge of your seat.

An intelligent, expansive and exciting sequel, we’ll leave the Which Is Better: Dawn VS Rise argument to the masses. It’s far too close for us to call.