Director: Matt Reeves
Cast: Andy Serkis, Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, Judy Greer, Keri Russell, Kodi Smit-McPhee
Stars: 4 and a half
Every so often comes a piece of cinematic beauty masquerading as a sci-fi flick that actually ends up tugging at your heart strings beyond the fantastic use of technology in its production. After a barrage of superhero and action franchises that seemed to employ visual effects, superficially emotional storylines and little else, comes a magnificent piece of filmmaking that is true to the very core of the craft. I’m going to go so far and say that this is possibly the best film of the year until now. Why it has been such a revelation is because very rarely does a sequel make the bar, let alone raise it.
The film begins with the simian point of view of how life has changed for the species since the prequel Rise of the Planet of the Apes ended. A killer flu that started to spread at the end of the first film has wiped out most of humanity over 10 years giving the space and resources for the apes to flourish while plunging the rest of the world into another dark age.
The apes have risen from the destruction and step by step put together a world and culture from the very debris of human existence. With no human contact in two years, they are peaceful, civilised and quite remarkably intelligent, led by Caesar who is now married to Cornelia and has two children.
Meanwhile, we learn that a small group of humans from San Francisco has survived the deadly flu and while on its way around the place, ends up accidentally wounding a little ape with a gunshot. This triggers Caesar to enter the human settlement and warn them from entering the woods.
Malcolm, the head of small human group consults with Dreyfus, the human leader, about the use of hydroelectric power to fuel the human settlement and pull it out of the darkness it has sunken into. Suspicious of the ape intentions, Dreyfus starts to distribute arms to the humans, gearing them up for an inevitable full-blown war.
On the ape front, Koba, who was subjected to much experimentation by the humans in the previous film, is angered by what has become of him, and advises Caesar to terminate the humans while they’re in such a desperate position. Even as Malcolm and his family start to develop a bond with the apes while working on the generator project, Koba, who stumbles upon the fact that the humans are being armed verbally attacks Caesar for continuing to be patient with a race that is on a war-footing.
Playing Caesar’s son Blue Eyes into believing that the humans are dangerous, Koba schemes to create confusion and finish off the humans in the process. The film then goes through the rigours of distrust and miscommunication before the peace-loving protagonists Caesar and Malcolm rue that their one big chance at amity has been blown.
Despite all the digital touchups and makeup, Andy Serkis shines as Caesar through his big expressive eyes. His performance is a great reminder that no amount of external masks can take away from the genuineness of emotions that the eyes mirror. The plot is more real when one looks at all the little sub-texts that Reeves has so clearly enjoyed incorporating.
Putting guns in the hands of apes is akin to saying that even the freely available arsenal around cannot guarantee responsibility even if it’s a self-defence bid. And that is a conversation that America specifically and the rest of the world too must have. The struggles with uncontrolled power and a sense of responsibility that should come with it has been so beautifully portrayed that one can only wish that humans too would rationalise and process their angst before, well, going ape.
This is a must-watch not only for its technical marvel but also for the fact that it gets the one thing about filmmaking spot-on: the storytelling. In this day of artificiality in narration disguised under unnecessary 3D effects, comes a movie that makes you reflect. It is very telling of our times that it takes the apes’ evolution to highlight just how much humans have deteriorated.