Picking up where Rupert Wyatt’s preceding endeavour left off, we move ten years into the future where mankind has battled extinction following the deadly virus that swept across the planet. We re-enter the life of Andy Serkis’ Caesar, an intelligent, genetically evolved ape, now living a life of serenity in the depths of the jungle. That is, until human beings learn of their location. Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and his wife (Keri Russell) lead the pack of desperate people needing to infiltrate the ape’s home to locate the means to restore electricity to their community. Having then earned the trust of the primates, nevertheless it remains on volatile ground, and one wrong move could lead to a savage war. Neither side want such a fate, but as tensions mount, the need to establish who is the more dominant species comes into play, with the vengeful ape Koba (Toby Kebbell) at the heart of the uprising.
Director Matt Reeves – whose previous credits include Cloverfield and Let Me In – enlarges cinematically with a minimum contrivance, though remaining faithful to the more intimate aspects of his brand of filmmaking, which serves this picture incredibly well. There is a remarkable degree of emotion and pathos within the tale, which is quite a feat given the grandiose nature of the blockbuster. The relationships between species is well-judged and poignant, while the character development of the apes is staggeringly impressive – with Koba, in particular, being such a nuanced and layered creation. They are brought to life in quite breathtaking fashion on the big screen too, as the performance capture is better than you’ve ever seen it, evolving around 20 years in the past five or so. It brings a sense of realism to proceedings, which not only allows us to suspend our disbelief (which is needed when dealing with talking apes), but adds to the rich, emotional aspects of this production.
With shades of the Western genre – not to mention science fiction, or even at times, the silent movie era of Hollywood: here is a blockbuster like no other, that treads that line between huge, dramatic set pieces, and the candid, intimate exploration of beings; to make for what has to be the greatest blockbuster of the summer, and maybe even the year. The third instalment, once again with Reeves at the helm, could not come soon enough.