Revamping a franchise is not unlike walking a tightrope. A balance of honoring the original canon while mining the story for a fresh audience is nightmarishly tense. It can tank an established brand or breathe new life into it. A common concept in Hollywood currently is to reboot a franchise or start over whenever it gets worn out. “X-Men” tried this, but also blended the storylines into one cohesive universe. Recent fourth entries (“Spy Kids,” “Scream 4,” “Transformers”) aimed to create a whole new multi-film storyline while blending elements of the original trilogy of its films. Though “Transformers” has made a big splash at the box office, the gross and attendance make it the lowest attended thus far. The other two diminish greatly in interest to consider them both duds.
A few years ago, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” managed to walk this double-edged sword. By honoring the mythos of the original stories, “Rise” created a prequel that shed light on the origin of the simian dominance of the planet. This summer, a sequel has furthered the new storyline while bringing it closer to the events of “Planet of the Apes.”
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” takes place ten years after the events of “Rise.” Caesar has led apes to a quiet but protected home outside San Francisco. The few remaining survivors occupy the city. With resources running low, a team ventures out to gather means to prolong existence. Malcom (Jason Clarke), a single father and head of these search parties, attempts to navigate the post-apocalyptic world while coexisting with the apes. As factions within the humans and apes begin to destroy the shaky truce between the two, tensions escalate.
“Dawn” is a solid sequel to a surprisingly well-crafted reboot. The scope expands, showing a more stressed environment. Decrepitude and jungle-encased cover the Bay area. Director Matt Reeves shows a collection of characters, both ape and human, as if they are intended to mimic their enemy counterparts. Despite having a large, blockbuster feel, “Dawn” doesn’t dig as deep as it had potential too. The apes feel more layered than the human actors. Filming the CGI primates has led to a nuanced and enriching believability. In a summer rich with blockbusters that can’t exceed pretty good quality, “Dawn” can’t buck the trend. It is an intelligent film that isn’t as smart as it aims to be. But falling short doesn’t prevent the film from being a joy to watch. 3 out of 5 stars.
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