dawnoftheplanetoftheapesOne of the fondest movie memories from my childhood in the late 70’s is walking to the small theater in our town and watching all the Planet of the Apes films.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

One of the fondest movie memories from my childhood in the late 70’s is walking to the small theater in our town and watching all the Planet of the Apes films. The McCutchin Theater would show all five original films back to back in a Saturday marathon and I would fill up on popcorn and pickle juice and escape into this sci-fi world. The fascination film fans have with this franchise may be why the lure to create new ones exists in Hollywood. Though there have been several attempts over the last few decades DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES may be the closest one yet to capturing the feel and essence of the originals.

This is the sequel to the 2011 film Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Ten years have passed and the highly evolved Caesar (Andy Serkis) leads a community of Apes on the outskirts of San Francisco. He watches over not only his wife and son but the clan who look to him for guidance. They want nothing more than to live in peace far from the rapidly vanishing human race. When a band of human survivors need resources found in Caesar’s territory he must decide between helping them or going to war. When he agrees to aid a scientist (Jason Clarke) and his family (Keri Russell) it creates turmoil within the simian camp.

This film is different than Rise (and in my opinion a bit better) in that it feels more in harmony with the originals. You can see the characters of the late 60’s film reflected in the ones here. Their desire for learning and knowledge added to their feeling of superiority give them a quiet tone of advancement. They fear becoming like the humans and therefore do everything to shun and avoid them. They do not trust man and have yet to forget the horrible experiments done by them.  Rick Jaffa (writer) does an excellent job of building dialogue that would fit any group of people. There is a strong focus on family, community, and peace that just so happens to be played out by apes. You will understand Caesar and find yourself rooting for his principals. At the same time this isn’t just an “ape good, man bad” story. Both sides are shown to have conflicting members.

The seamless effects and the bringing to life of the Ape characters are astonishing. Facial expressions and emotions are so vividly displayed; enhancing the depth of the dialogue.  The fluid motion of the Apes swinging through trees, riding on horseback, or engaging with each other is perfect. The 3D has a tendency to be a bit blurry during the action sequences but the frame by frame clarity of the close-ups and wide shots are superb. You easily get the sense of power and brute strength these characters have but at the same time their ability to move so subtly. You don’t have to see it in 3D but see it on the largest screen possible.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief strong language. The language for the most part is very mild. The only exception is one completely unnecessary out burst from Gary Oldman.  The action sequences and dramatic tension are a bit much for those under 13. What stands out as positive in this film is the strong message of family and community. Loyalty and trust also play key roles in the stories development. I give it 4.5 out of 5 battle scars. It is certainly one of the better action films and a truly grand addition to the Apes franchise.

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