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'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' review: The degeneration of a simian uprising

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" will be released theatrically in conventional and 3D theaters starting Friday.

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Ten years have passed since the events of "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." Apes have become the dominant species while humanity gave in to the outbreak of the simian flu. The human population is thought to have completely died out as Caesar (Andy Serkis) not only has a family of his own but is the leader of an entire ape civilization.

Everything is quite peaceful until Caesar's son Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston) and another ape named Ash (Larramie Doc Shaw) encounter an ape-hating human named Carver (Kirk Acevedo) who shoots Ash which leads to Caesar discovering that humans not only survived but are searching for the means to keep on living.

A sanctuary for humans lead by a man named Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) who's desperate to allow the human race to rebuild are suddenly on the brink of war with Caesar's camp. Malcolm (Jason Clarke), his girlfriend Ellie (Keri Russell), and Malcolm's son Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee) see the good in the apes and attempt to keep the peace while a scarred and stubborn ape named Koba (Toby Kebbell) refuses to give the humans a chance and takes matters into his own violent and destructive hands.

The opening to "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" is extremely intense. You're introduced to Caesar, his adult son, and the extremely loyal Koba as they hunt deer and encounter a brown bear that nearly kills Caesar. This is also where the extremely superb and resonating sound effects begin pounding in your ear drums.

The comparisons between the science fiction sequel and "The Walking Dead" television series seem almost blatant especially since Kirk Acevedo is basically playing the same single-minded character that he did on the show. The desolate world, humanity struggling to survive, and the inevitable battle for power are all quite similar to Rick Grimes and his crew fending off The Governor and the growing legion of undead in "The Walking Dead."

Witnessing this magnificent world built from shambles is extraordinary. The apes live in this lush woodland that seems to have built all of its structures out of the remains of dead forests and timber. Weta Digital has outdone themselves yet again as the apes in the film look incredible. Facial expressions are so fluid while every intricate hair on every ape seems to have a life of its own.

The fantastic visuals and encircling sound effects only intensify during the breathtaking war sequences. Koba is an absolute lunatic yet thrilling to watch. There's something about watching apes on horseback hollering at the top of their lungs and firing machine guns while being surrounded by fire that is extremely satisfying as a film enthusiast. Make note of the film's charismatic use of perspective, as well. The camera placement while Koba operates a tank in particular is remarkable.

Jason Clarke is compelling to watch as the film's lead. Clarke is able to portray absolute fear and utmost sincerity in a way that is not only believable but riveting. The one-take sequence where Malcolm is trying to escape his room with a surgical kit as the apes attack is stunning. Meanwhile Koba takes betrayal to pretty low places. The character is the type you love to hate. He is undoubtedly immoral and rotten through and through and yet his actions are mesmerizing.

There's something to be said about something as simple as the gesture of holding hands being so meaningful, as well. The apes do so much with their hands to greet, to show a sign of brotherhood, and to even forgive one another. The intimate moments of the film only seem to strengthen its brutality.

In a perfect world, all summer blockbusters would be as sensational, as gripping, and as visually and audibly fulfilling as "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" is. The vibrant imagery in the film sticks to your brain like glue, especially that image at the very end of the film. Featuring just the right balance of tenderness and unstable mayhem, "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" is an impressive sequel that is undeniably enjoyable.

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