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'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes': Sunset for humans

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” may be the most entertainingly interesting of the entire “Ape” series. Directed by Matt Reeves with screenplay by Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” delves into the good and evil in all species.

The film, through its human and ape leads, dramatically demonstrates that no one race or being is monolithic in thinking or behavior. On paper, this might not seem terribly interesting, but when portrayed on the screen, it most definitely is. What is curious is that “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” also has a very subtle anti-gun feel to it, which is ironic, since the first film’s lead, Charlton Heston, was such a strong gun supporter.

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” very cleverly opens with real world news occurrences leading to the events in 2018, when a virus has killed much of mankind. Eight years later a group of human survivors, immune to the virus, are living under the leadership of Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) in San Francisco. These remaining humans dwell in chaos and economic depression. The humans and apes co-exist in fragile peace, in very separate communities until a human, Carver (Kirk Acevedo), wanders off into ape territory and runs into two apes. Spooked, he reacts in typical American fashion—pulling out a gun—and shooting at the two, one of which is the son of Caesar (Andy Serkis), leader of the ape community. With that gunshot, peace is destroyed. Amidst these hostilities, the San Francisco community is close to running out of power. Malcolm (Jason Clarke), an engineer of sorts, convinces leader Dreyfus to give him three days to make peace with the apes in order to gain access to a hydroelectric dam in their territory, which could provide power to the city. Malcolm and Caesar meet and come to realize that they have similar values and, hence, a bond is formed and peace is made…for a period of time. However, each has other “colleagues” who don’t share their values—Koba (Toby Kebbell)—a thorn in Caesar’s side—and both Carver and Dreyfus have views contrary to Malcolm’s. Can the humans and apes get along for good or will there always be suspicions and the threat of war?

“Dawn of the Planet of the Ape’s” acting seems to vary depending upon the species and the writing. For the apes, much of the acting is conveyed through the eyes and in their motions. As Caesar, Andy Serkis handles this perfectly. He really makes you believe in the ape’s humanity. At the same time, Toby Kebbell‘s Koba is very good in portraying Caesar’s exact opposite. The sub-par writing for the humans put the actors at a distinct disadvantage. Gary Oldman’s and Kirk Acevedo’s characters’ dialogue seems almost cartoonish and they struggle to rise above the script. Jason Clarke, Keri Russell as Ellie, and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Malcolm’s son, Alexander, have much better material from which to work and are very convincing as the do-gooder humans.

“Dawn of the Apes” make-up and special effects for the apes continue to astound. The apes seem so real that they make the scenery seem fake.

“Dawn of the Apes is not a joyous or hopeful film, but it is an unexpectedly intelligent one and in its own way is very entertaining.