Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (20th Century)
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief strong language.
Starring Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Kirk Acevedo, Nick Thurston, Terry Notary, Karin Konoval, Judy Greer, Jon Eyez, Enrique Murciano, Larramie Doc Shaw, Lee Ross.
Written by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver and Mark Bomback, based on the novel by Pierre Boulle.
Directed by Matt Reeves.
Humans have a great reputation for messing things up – at least that’s what filmmakers want you to believe. In fact, it would also seem that movies suggest lesser-evolved beings might be better suited to run the place. Such dystopian ideals are the idea behind the Planet of the Apes franchise, now in its second generation of movie series. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes takes off from where Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) ended, as the apes fought back against the humans on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
It is ten years later, and the “Simian Flu” has devastated most of the world's human population. The apes, led by Caesar (Andy Serkis) have retreated into the California forest and formed their own culture. Due to being exposed to a serum that evolved their brains (in the first movie), the apes have created an evolved society, complete with living structures, a school, and one basic law: “APE NOT KILL APE.”
The few remaining humans, in an effort to restore electrical power, have ventured into the woods to try and restart a nearby hydroelectric dam. When one of the humans kills and ape out of fear, Caesar banishes the humans and makes a visit to the human compound in downtown SF to declare a truce – as long as the humans stay out of their territory. Despite Caesar’s declaration, one of the human leaders named Malcolm (Jason Clarke) convinces the human leader Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) to allow him a second chance at making peace with the apes. Dreyfus gives Malcolm a few days, and he takes off with a small crew, including his girlfriend Ellie (Keri Russell) and teenaged son Alexander (Jodi Smit-McPhee) to try and convince Caesar the humans pose no threat.
Once Malcolm’s party arrives, the apes allow them to try and get the dam up and running, but only if they surrender their guns. Caesar’s second in command Koba (Toby Kebbell) is not happy with any alliance with humans, having suffered terrible experiments and torture in captivity years before his sudden evolution. Koba leads a secret team back to SF and infiltrates the human armory, where he grabs a few guns.
Things escalate when Koba starts a war with the humans. Malcolm and Caesar must make sacrifices to try and stop the war, but it may be too late.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is somewhat better than its predecessor, and certainly darker. The greatest treat (and surprise) happens as the credits roll, and you see Andy Serkis’ name at the top. He belongs there, and no one should diminish his influence in bringing a computer-generated character to life the way he does. Besides providing the voice (yes, some, but not all of the apes talk in the movie), Serkis’ interpretation of an evolved ape’s movements and facial expressions make you forget it’s CG.
As for the story in DOTPOTA, it’s very much like a very good Shakespearean tragedy – but with more hand gestures and ape-like grunts instead of Iambic Pentameter. It may be too dark for some, but it does invoke a little thought about what humanity really means.