There’s a lot happening in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” which takes place many years after the events in “Rise.” Caesar (Andy Serkis covered in CGI) has started not only a family (Judy Greer and Nick Thurston), but also a tribe of simians, who communicate with sign language, while taking baby-steps in speaking English; the outbreak has killed half the human race, while the other half remain immune; and not only do we assume that Will Rodman (James Franco) has been killed by the virus, but we also find out what started the next war, leading up to the big war.
“Rise” writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver have both been given some help from writer Mark Bomback (“The Wolverine”), and thus, their story is well-thought out. They are even guided by director Matt Reeves (“Cloverfield”), replacing original director Rupert Wyatt, who has made absolute sure that his team of filmmakers can make “Dawn” look and feel entertaining. The result: it is entertaining.
As the human story begins, the humans remain in the ruins of the city of San Francisco. The movie’s star-studded cast now includes Gary Oldman as the leader, who believes that war is the answer, and Jason Clarke as a father named Malcolm, who thinks otherwise. Their only source of power comes from the dam, located at the apes’ home, so Malcolm and his family (Keri Russell and Kodi Smit-McPhee) have to earn Caesar’s trust in fixing the dam.
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” has only a few human/ape slaughters that bothered me a little, but I still enjoyed this movie for how the film presents itself. Clarke, Oldman, Russell, and Smit-McPhee may not always work as well as Franco, but they still give fine performances.
Ironically, I choose the apes over the humans in this case. Serkis once again plays Caesar with such anguish that he explodes off the screen as much as he did in the first. I already said this, but I loved how he begins to speak English, and you imagine that is one intelligent ape.
Another ape performance that I also admired comes from Toby Kebbell as Koba, who has been tortured more than any ape in the science labs. He mistrusts the humans more than Caesar does, and thus, he grows darker and more sadistic. He is the kind of the villain you’d want to get involved with.
There are lots of action sequences enough to keep the audience entertained. Unlike the recent “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” the drama and action are completely balanced and they don’t go wall-to-wall. The special effects are incredible, and I just hope nobody overlooks Serkis and Kebbell, who are the shining simians of “Dawn.”
Playing at AMC Theaters on Wednesday July 12 as part of a Triple Feature