Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, and Keri Russell starring in a film directed by Matt Reeves
A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier and both sides are brought to the brink of a war that will determine who will emerge as Earth’s dominant species.
2011’s “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes” was a surprise treat. The filmmakers took a property that didn’t really need to be rebooted and found a compelling story about what created these apes and what lead to the eventual destruction of Earth. The combination of CGI Caesar and the other apes fleshed out human characters made for an enjoyable and interesting time.
With “Dawn Of The Plant Of The Apes,” Caesar is the head of an entire, growing congregation of genetically-enhanced apes. They communicate through sign language and short sentences. They are fully self-aware and more human than the flat human characters of the movie. And yet, it’s hard to get lost in their world; you’re always aware that this is all CGI and it feels like it should just be a computer generated film.
The movie takes itself too seriously in its effort to tell stories of betrayal, loyalty, what is means to be human and the art of war. After ten years without contact with humans, a small party of survivors from San Francisco come across the apes. After one of their members panics, shooting and wounding a young ape, Caesar leads the apes to the human settlement and forbids the humans from entering the woods.
The party’s leader, Malcolm (Jason Clarke), convinces the human leader Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) to give him three days to make peace with the apes to gain access to a hydroelectric generator at a dam in their territory, which could provide power to the city. Dreyfus is distrustful of the apes, and begins to arm the survivors in preparation for war while Caesar’s lieutenant, Koba, encourages Caesar to wipe out the humans while they are desperate.
Caesar, seeing a chance for peace with the humans, agrees to allow Malcolm access to the dam. As Malcolm, his wife and son work on the generator, they begin to form a bond with the apes, despite several tense situations arising from the mutual distrust of both sides.
It’s a good story, one that’s been told plenty of times before, and the performances by the apes are well done. But it all feels silly, and not silly in a fun way and, at 2 hours, the film is a bit exhausting. The human characters are drab and Gary Oldman doesn’t actually have anything to do.
The action sequences of the film are well done and engaging. The forest set and desolate San Francisco are fascinating and the movie thrives best when the apes interact with each other. It’s just hard to get inspired by any of it though, but at least Dawn is enjoyable enough for a summer movie season full of dull stories and loud sound effects.
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Dawn Of The Plant Of The Apes opens today in theaters everywhere.