Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the late summer answer to the early summer release of disappointing-yet-watchable Godzilla. That being said, it is a monster movie with some decent acting thrown in to ground it a little further into reality. But director Matt (Let Me In, Cloverfield) Reeves successfully gives the humanity to the wrong species. That's right, Andy (The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Rise of the Planet of the Apes) Serkis and Toby (The Counselor, The East) Kebbell absolutely shine as the two lead apes, showing that motion capture truly is the future of both science fiction movies and CGI. Unfortunately, the script can only go so far, and it is as if the screenwriters did not want the audience to care about the human characters of the film.
Gary (The Dark Knight trilogy, Hannibal) Oldman is a completely wasted talent, but he plays his role expertly. As for Jason (Zero Dark Thirty, The Great Gatsby) Clarke, Keri (Felicity, The Americans) Russell, and Kodi (The Road, ParaNorman) Smit-McPhee, they all seem to simply phone in their performances. If the moral of the story is that humanity brings on its own downfall by being soulless caricatures of what life used to be like, then the message is clearly sent. But that is most assuredly not the case. Wooden acting from a one-sided script is not enough to sink the film, though. The first half of the film is dedicated solely to the apes and their own world that they have created in humanity's wake. And it is wholly engrossing, giving us some of the best theatrical cinematography in years.
The first half of the film is by far the strongest in terms of story and depth, but it is the second half of the film that will give most action fans their fill of summer blockbuster death, chaos, and explosions. The war to come is confusing, convoluted, and altogether unbelievable, but even though the final moments of the film stagger and eventually fall flat, it is worth noting that the first half of this film is one of an expert filmmaker. Perhaps a stronger script and some more seasoned actors would have saved the latter part of the movie, but that is the double-edged sword that is a sci-fi summer blockbuster. You risk losing your audience if you present a drama, rather than a bunch of gun, fire, and a tank.