PHOTO BY TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
Where is it playing?: Fremont (in 2- and 3-D), Park (in 2-D), Stadium 10 (in 2-D)
What's it rated?: PG-13
What's it worth?: $8.50
A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar (Andy Serkis) is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating simian virus unleashed a decade earlier. They reach a fragile peace, but it proves short-lived, as both sides are brought to the brink of a war that will determine who will emerge as Earth’s dominant species. Directed by Matt Reeves (The Pallbearer, Cloverfield, Let Me In), the film also stars Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, and Keri Russell.
I could mention any number of cinematic bonafides to convince you to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes—the spectacular visuals, innovative CGI work, or gripping action sequences—but all I really need to mention are eight words: an ape, riding a horse, shooting an AK-47.
You’re not going to see that anywhere else on the big screen, and director Matt Reeves showcases the gun-toting, equine-mastering ape with glee. He knows he’s got something unique and utterly bonkers.
Dawn is the rare sequel (following 2011’s Rise of the Plant of the Apes) that surpasses its predecessor. The action sequences are bolder, the CGI is more extensive, and the characters (both human and simian) are drawn with a great deal of depth.
Ape leader Caesar (stunningly played by motion-capture whiz Andy Serkis) is the untraditional protagonist of this $170 million blockbuster flick. Toby Kebbell (as bonobo usurper Koba) and Karin Konoval (as wise orangutan Maurice) also deliver incredible motion-capture performances.
Humans are (appropriately) secondary in the film’s plot, but the humans (Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Gary Oldman) are all solid in more boilerplate roles.
The plot will be familiar to action/disaster movie aficionados: A global viral apocalypse leads to a near-destruction of human civilization, and a ragtag band of survivors fights to stay alive.
Dawn rises to a higher cinematic level, however, mainly thanks to its fascinating simian characters. Caesar and his cohorts discuss inter- and intra-species conflict, the virtues of technology, and the nature of their existence with surprising depth and potency.
Renegade, warmongering assholes in both the human and ape camps make the species-on-species conflict inevitable, and the action sequences (set in the CGI-ified crumbling buildings and ruined streets of San Francisco) are a sight to behold.
Dawn is a rousing and vibrant action flick with a thinking man’s bent, and I highly recommend it to all members of the human species. (130 min.)
—Rhys Heyden; Staff Writer