At The Movies: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The third movie version of “The Planet of the Apes” saga continues in strong, if somewhat familiar, fashion with “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.”

Ten years have passed since the first film. Human civilization has been decimated by a manmade virus known as the “simian flu.” Meanwhile in the woods outside San Francisco, super-intelligent ape Caesar (Andy Serkis) leads a thriving simian community.

1401975153940It has been a couple of years since any sign of human life, but people are returning to the city under the leadership of Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) and Malcolm (Jason Clarke). Key to getting San Fran up and vital again is a power plant deep in ape territory. Dreyfus, whose family was killed by the virus, wants to take the plant by force and kill any apes who get in the way. Malcolm wants peace, and takes a small party to meet with Caesar and try to work together.

Caesar is willing to help the humans but his trusted advisor Koba (Toby Kebbell) is not. Caesar, raised in a loving home by James Franco, feels kinship with humans. Koba, who spent most of his life in cages being experimented on, doesn’t share that love. To put it another nerd way: Caesar is Professor X, Koba is Magneto.

While Caesar and Malcolm work together, Koba discovers Dreyfus’ plans and works to tear everything apart.

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is a suitable followup the 2011 hit “Rise.” Director Matt Reeves continues to make the emotional and personal plight of Caesar the heart of the story.

This one is far more action oriented than the previous film and by the end does become a bit too much, but that’s the bane of a lot of action movies. Even though the good/bad humans and good/bad apes dynamic is hardly fresh, the story was still compelling.

This latest “Apes” series gets a lot of well-deserved applause for its motion-capture work and the lifelike appearance of the ape characters. But I’m starting to feel a little nostalgic for the men in ape suits of the ’60s. It just looks, well, ridiculous seeing what appear to be real chimps riding horses and firing automatic weapons. It takes away from the horror and drama of the moment when the audience is laughing at apes flying across the screen after an explosion.

I also miss the twist endings that made the original series so memorable. There may have been one post-credits but I didn’t stick around to find out.

Oh, and I saw no reason to watch this in 3D. I didn’t notice any enhancement whatsoever.





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