'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' is a thinking person's fantasy film
While watching 'Dawn,' viewers can take in the film's message about interspecies tolerance while also enjoying the action scenes.
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation/AP
One of the better sequels to issue from Hollywoodâ€™s franchise frenzy,Â â€śDawn of the Planet of the Apesâ€ť is a thinking personâ€™s fantasy film.Â Whatâ€™s remarkable about it is that it doesnâ€™t seem like a fantasy at all.
The film begins in the long aftermath to the ape escape in 2011â€™s â€śRiseÂ of the Planet of the Apes,â€ť when a simian virus killed most of Earthâ€™sÂ population. Caesar, the hero chimp from that film, is now the head ofÂ an advanced tribe of apes (and gorillas, orangutans, and bonobos) livingÂ in the wilds of northern California. A band of human survivors hasÂ assembled in San Francisco at a weapons armory while attempting to locateÂ a dam in ape territory with which they hope to restore power. Interspecies warfare isÂ the inevitable result.
Director Matt Reeves and his screenwriters Mark Bomback, RickÂ Jaffa, and Amanda Silver go in for a lot of socially conscious dramaturgyÂ about the need for interspecies tolerance, which will probably earn theÂ film merit badges from those critics who like their sci-fi accompaniedÂ by a dollop of instruction. I could have done with a bit less of this, butÂ then again, the first (and still arguably the best) of the series, â€śPlanetÂ of the Apes,â€ť went in for it, too.Â
Whatâ€™s striking about this new film isÂ that it lays out the message-mongering in such a way that you can enjoyÂ the movie equally well on a purely action level. Andy Serkis, who playsÂ the worldly-wise Caesar, is extraordinary, as always; so is Toby KebbellÂ as Koba, Caesarâ€™s human-hating rival. (In joke: Koba was the nameÂ Stalin assumed for himself in his early party days.) The human players,Â including Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, and Gary Oldman,Â canâ€™t help but come across as second-best to these apes, as good as those actors are. Whether the apes areÂ grunting, speaking in sign language, or talking in English, they rule. Grade: B+ (Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief strong language.)