Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a very good Summer movie that is proof against “popcorn movies” that are empty-headed noise (you don’t have to give up smarts and a solid script to deliver a crowd-pleasing action film). It’s a direct sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes – it continues the story of Caesar and his escaped ape clan ten years after the collapse of human civilization due to the simian plague. This flick (odd compliment) has one of the best montage opening credits showing the collapse of society… it sets the tone for the movie and is the first clue that the film maker’s know what they’re doing (and care).

It’s a smartly written, very well-produced film that may not have a symbolic message like most of the other Apes movies but does say a lot about the fragility of peace and how easy it can be to slide into war. It’s a little predictable once you see the story structure fall into place but that doesn’t hurt the movie but it might have been helped if it was able to surprise more.

The action scenes are very well done with stakes that are clearly established, easy to follow, and has a sense of place. There are no wasted moments and the movie knows how to put together shots and sequences that matter. It’s nice to see a film that knows that action can be both kick-ass and have emotional heft… that servers the plot and isn’t just the excuse to be in the theater.

Andy Serkis doing the acting and motion capture for the head ape is great and the other actors in the other ape roles do a very good job… considering there were at least four apes with distinct personalities is kind of impressive given that, you know, they are apes (talking and signing apes, but still). The animators smartly added scarring and other details to make sure they were distinct enough from a distance. The villain here is great… haven’t seen a lot of good villain characters in movies lately.

This is ultimately a better movie than Rise of the Planet of the Apes (which was already very good). Highly recommended.

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