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Hail Caesar! Movie review of ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Photo by Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images

As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day and so Caesar’s little empire (he, the Adam of the ape world) starts with a treehouse and an uprising. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes begins at least a decade and some years after Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The ALZ-113 virus has decimated human civilization. In the meantime Caesar’s ape clan are living in a simian hippie commune where the second generation, ones who have never lived in cages or been experimented on, are now of an age where they can hunt, fish and question authority. (Teen apes; what cha goin’ do?)

During a discussion Caesar observes to his second in command, Koba, that it has been over a decade since they last saw any humans. Koba asks if he misses we homo-sapiens-sapiens and Caesar acknowledges he misses us but we essentially killed ourselves – can’t really argue with that logic. Koba admits that he doesn’t miss people because he didn’t have the same kind of relationship with us that Caesar did which sets the tone for the rest of the movie.

Of course there are still humans and like the bi-pedal creatures of today, we want what we want when we want it. It is believed that the still living people have a natural immunity to ALZ-113 which means that it is time to rebuild and it is time to turn the lights back on. Therefore it is necessary for someone to get that damned dam working again. Ergo the day finally happens when the humans run into apes and both groups are freaked out.

The underpinning message of Dawn is civilization building along with the cult of personality. It is also a bit of an anthropological study of communication. All of the apes have maintained their intelligence and communicate by sign language with a few being able to actually talk when the occasion requires it. In many ways the plot reminded me of a sweeping Shakespearian drama where the king is in charge, betrayed, and then resurrected in the final act.

Dawn works because the CGI apes are fantastic. I loved the fact that many of the apes rode horses – one would almost hope that Caesar’s horse would have hoof toes. I also enjoyed the insults Caesar threw in the direction of another chimpanzee (if only there was a lesser ape version of Jerry Springer, which technically I guess there is). Of course Andy Serkis reprised his role as Caesar because Serkis is your go to guy when you are doing and sort of computer originated CGI acting.

Even though the film has a summary of sorts from 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, audiences could have used a few more details. It is important somewhat because part of the action takes place in the house where Caesar was raised. I wondered what happened to the Will Rodman (James Franco). I assume he died but did he die thinking about Caesar who was basically his son? I suppose I am a sentimentalist.

I recommend Dawn of the Planet of the Apes because it is an interesting theme and an intriguing story. For those who remember the earlier films, especially the first installment with Charlton Heston, “Take your stinking paws off of me you damn dirty ape!” it is fun to compare the films. Although Dawn is technically a prequel, the audience knows where it will lead but not the journey to get there. It is a great film to see either on a date, with friends, or with family. I believe it will play just as well on a smaller screen.

Happy viewing!