Tom Pheby checks out the most recent Apes movie, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which is released this week on DVD.

Despite my better judgement my two sons wanted to see this movie at the cinema. It's not that I'm not a fan of, or even a virgin to, the franchise, just that I doubted it could possibly top 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes. As it turns out I was pleasantly surprised. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is dark, thoughtful, dramatic and deliciously atmospheric - plus it doesn't require you to see any of the previous Apes movies prior to viewing this one.

The original movie starring Charlton Heston is, of course, a well loved classic, but against Dawn of the Planet of the Apes it's reduced to the the status of mediocre. The Cinematography is richer, it's gloomy yet superb. The script is solid and fast paced, yet with enough to make you pause for thought in between the action to reflect on our modern day societies short comings and fears. The performances are epic, especially Andy Serkis as Caesar the apes leader, and the treacherous Koba played superbly by Tony Kebbel. You could be forgiven for thinking that CG capture technology overrides any performances but the expression through the apes eyes is totally compelling and this form of digital enhancement is a complete revelation.

But don't think for one single moment that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a case of effects over substance, oh no, not here! It's a very well constructed and crafted film that is quite possibly the best I have seen for sometime. It's not chock-a-block with A-list stars, but does have the dependable Gary Oldman - who seems to be in every big budget number in the last few years and has finally put to rest the memory of that unholy travesty, Lost in Space, where he tried manfully to make a pigs ear into silk purse.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes tells the story of two species trying to exist on the planet without realizing the close proximity of their homelands, after a deadly virus all but wipes out mankind. The Humans are looking to restore power to their part of the planet - well at least to their commune in San Francisco,which is hardly a fortress as people and apes seem to get in and out with ease. The route at which to restore power lies in the apes territory in the form of a hydroelectric dam but it's not going to be easy with suspicions and hatred at an all time high. Former Architect Malcom (Jason Clarke) is given the task of making contact with the apes and turning the lights back on, but if he fails the Humans will go to war, led by Oldman's character Dreyfus. Although Clarke is very much second fiddle to others he defines his role of providing the link between the two opposing camps with a understated performance that makes him essential to the piece.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is social commentary without trying to be too clever, it never overplays its hand or preaches, but it may just make you think about racial tensions or the hostilities of the present day, it cleaverly provokes thoughts about a bigger picture, one that we tend to ignore.

It's almost unrecognizable from the Heston/McDowell features, and thankfully the same is true of the limp Tim Burton offering. It builds brilliantly on Rise of The Planet of the Apes ( 2011) which up until now had been the best of the bunch. As expected there are a few links to that movie but they are done with care and subtlety through a script that embraces the past but doesn't find it necessary to keep harping on about it - some Directors should take note!

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is gripping, tense and totally absorbing... and there's not a banana in sight! It leaves out the predictable and the plain stupid, and has the ability to leave you gawping open mouthed. The best film of the year? Better than that, the best film for many a year. This is how it should be done. More like this please Hollywood.

Tomorrow Tom looks at the proposed 1990s Planet of the Apes reboot movie.

Script Writer, Poet, Blogger and junk television specialist. Half English, half Irish and half Alsatian, Tom is well known for insisting on being called Demetri for reasons best known to himself. A former film abuser and telly addict who shamefully skulks around his home town of Canterbury after dark dressed as Julie Andrews. Follow Tom on Twitter
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