Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – reviews of sci-fi sequel

Jul 18, 2014

Critics praise gripping, spectacular and 'impressively un-stupid' Apes franchise follow-up

What you need to know

American science fiction film Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has opened in UK cinemas. Matt Reeves directs this sequel to the 2011 film Rise of the Planet of the Apes, continuing the reboot of the Planet of the Apes series, which began in the late 1960s. 

The movie is set ten years after Rise of Planet of the Apes, in a world where the fragile peace between human survivors of a deadly virus and a society of highly-evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by mutual mistrust and revenge.

It stars Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke and Andy Serkis (Gollum in Lord of the Rings) as Caesar, and features special effects from Peter Jackson's Weta team.

What the critics like

Matt Reeves' "impressively uncompromising, propulsive and poignant sequel" is so good you soon you take the special effects for granted as you're so wrapped up in the journey, says Ian Nathan in Empire. It's superbly mounted, powerfully performed and its technical ambitions are beautifully married to the story.

It's "impressively un-stupid", and engages with genuine ideas about diplomacy, deterrence, law and leadership, says Tim Robey in the Daily Telegraph. The special effects serve character far more than spectacle, and it's the characters who make this a ride worth taking.

This gripping account of interspecies conflict manages to maintain a simmering level of tension while making "a powerful humanistic statement", says Todd McCarthy in the Hollywood Reporter. It's also beautifully shot and features quite a few frightening, suspenseful and just plain awesome sights.

What they don't like

It is spectacular but its biggest weakness is that homo sapiens offer little to rival the performances of the apes, such as Serkis's Caesar, says Steve Rose in The Guardian. Oldman doesn't get enough screen time to really register, Clarke is serviceable and, as with so many wars, "the first casualty is female speaking roles".

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