This simian sequel doesn't monkey around when it comes to making an enthralling blockbuster
Against all the odds, 2011's Rise of the Planet of Apes turned out to be an unexpectedly smart and assured reboot for the iconic sci-fi franchise. And as good as that film was, director Matt (Cloverfield) Reeve's sequel trumps it in every regard.
With humanity having been decimated by 'simian flu' during the intervening decade, the main focus of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes shifts to the developing ape community and the problems that Caesar (Andy Serkis) faces from both internal and external forces when their forest home is 'invaded' by a small group of humans looking for a nearby dam able to generate electricity.
What follows is an engrossing blockbuster that manages to both resonate emotionally and dazzle with its technological achievements.
Picture: The film's gloomy aesthetic means that it's not always the most spectacular-looking 3D presentation you'll see, but there's still a lot to admire about Fox's 1.85:1-framed stereoscopic Blu-ray.
The rain-soaked hunt that opens the film feels a little flat at times, yet brighter sequences (such as the apes' initial march on San Francisco) showcase multiple layers of depth that give a palpable sense of space to the imagery, and facial close-ups, particularly those of the CG cast, also impress with their volumetric details.
Aiding appreciation of the 3D imagery is the flawless technical quality of the MVC encode. Fine details are constantly well-resolved and there's no sign of any or additional digital noise or awkward ghosting.
For those with a 2D setup, the regular AVC encode also gets a thumbs up, never once faltering when it comes to reproducing the blue-tinted forest exteriors or the meticulous SFX work from Weta Digital.
Picture rating: 4.5/5
Audio: When you consider that large portions of the movie are set in rainy forests with apes leaping through the trees, it's hardly a shock that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is an extremely immersive affair.
Early adopters will be annoyed that this disc offers no chance to experience the mix's original Dolby Atmos incarnation, but the 7.1 -channel incarnation found on both the 2D and 3D platters proves adept at creating a panoramic soundscape littered with positional cues and immersive effects. There's also an undercurrent of rich, resonant bass in the mix that adds plenty of cinematic weight to scenes such as the apes' attack on the city in Chapters 25 and 26.
Audio rating: 5/5
Extras: As usual, the 3D platter here is a completely barebones affair. However, the 2D disc contains an interesting selection of extras worth a visit. In place of a feature-length Making of... doc, the highlight is an eight-strong set of fascinating behind-the-scenes featurettes, with a combined running time of 112 minutes. Meanwhile, director Matt Reeves provides an engaging commentary for the movie and a trio of deleted scenes.
Also included are four galleries of production art and three theatrical trailers.
Extras rating: 3.5/5
We say: Smarter than the average popcorn flick, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is also a superb home cinema experience. Hail, Caesar!
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes 3D, 20th Century Fox, Region A/B BD, £28 Approx
HCC VERDICT: 4.5/5
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