In the last decade or so, films with a hefty amount of CGI (computer generated imaging) have been accepted with widely varying outcomes. Some, like "Avatar" (2009) and "Gravity" (2013), win more than their fair share of awards and rake in billions of dollars at the box-office, while others, like "TRON: Legacy" (2010) and all of the "Twilight Saga" (2008-2012) mostly just get ridiculed for their poor use of technology.
"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" (2014), crafted for the screen by "Cloverfield" (2008) and "Let Me In" (2010) director Matt Reeves and penned by writing team Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver from "The Relic" (2007) as well as Mark Bomback from "The Wolverine" (2013), falls somewhere in-between.
The main character is undoubtedly Caesar, played by motion-capture expert Andy Serkis, who carries the weight of the film, both in character development and sheer screen-time. There's an unmistakable duality that exists between the group of humans and apes, fighting for supremacy, but mostly survival. There's the good-hearted leader (Serkis and Malcolm, played by Jason Clarke), the wife/caretaker of children (Caesar's briefly seen mate and Kerri Russell's Ellie), the naive but loyal son (Blue Eyes, acted out by Nick Thurston, and Alexander, played by Kodi Smith-McPhee), and, finally, the trying-to-be-good-but-really-bad guy (Toby Kebbell's Koba and Gary Oldman, who received way to much billing for doing almost nothing).
But the question which this film begged was this: Can Serkis be the true leading man of a big Hollywood movie in his ball-covered motion-capture jumpsuit? I wouldn't say this settles the matter, but it is an argument in the affirmative. Caesar is the only character with a tangible arc throughout the story. In the beginning, he maintains the belief that, from what he has seen of humans, apes are superior and that the life of any ape is worth more than that of any human. By the end, he discovers that, just like humans, there are some apes that are genuinely not good and some humans who may very well be as cool as James Franco.
In essence, though, the feel of the film was much more horror-like than the previous "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" (2011), with a drastically darker look and with the main conflict being that of the 'monster'. In the way of Frankenstein, the creature, being Caesar, was created by man, wanted only to survive on its own, but was drawn into violence unwillingly by it's environment. Naturally, the entire conflict in the film was started by a human, Carver (played by Kirk Acevedo), who was truly the only death in the movie that made me both smile and feel relief.
Overall, there were strange occurrences that made me tilt my head to the side as I watched, (the whole guns thing; I didn't see one ape reload, yet they never ran out of ammo. I didn't see one ape practice shooting, yet they all had fantastic aim. And why bring spears to the fight when you already have an arsenal of assault rifles? Also, where did they get and keep the horses when they weren't using them?) but for the most part, I can't knock the visual appeal of hundreds of full-grown primates descending upon post-apocolyptic San Francisco. That scene alone was worth the price of admission.
P.S. I'm giving the film 2 stars only because Examiner.com doesn't allow half-stars. a.k.a. it's really a 2.5.