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Ape Not Kill Ape: Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

Updated on April 5, 2015

Man and ape live separately as disease and conflicts between the species reduce the human ranks in Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes. The movie takes place ten years after the events of Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. A so-called simian flu has killed billions of humans. Caesar (Andy Serkis), now an adult, leads a tribe of apes in a wooded area outside San Francisco. A small band of humans from the city, though, come through their territory, trying to gain access to a dam that would, if fixed, keep some power going. Despite objections from some apes following the accidental shooting of one ape, Caesar lets the team work on the dam, as long as they surrender their guns. The team includes Malcolm (Jason Clarke), an engineer, Ellie (Keri Russell), a medical professional who once worked for the CDC, and Malcolm's son Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee). The deal changes, though, when Caesar's younger son playfully discovers that a member of Malcolm's team has stashed a gun. Caesar wants them gone, but Ellie buys time when she discovers that Caesar's mate, Cornelia (Judy Greer), is ailing, and gives her medicine that makes her better.

The city leader, Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), has already shown concern for this team's safety and well-being. That concern grows when Caesar and his tribe visit all at once. Though nothing happens, Dreyfus decides to take no chances and prepares men for a fight. Unknown to Caesar, though, a leading warrior named Koba (Toby Kebbell) and a couple of other apes return to the city and discover the weaponry. While Malcom and his people repair the dam, Koba reports his discovery to Caesar. When Caesar wants to do nothing, Koba uses that decision to question his leadership. Koba wants to start a war, and has taken steps to put the blame on the humans for instigating the problems.

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes continues to chronicle the downfall of man smartly, even as Caesar tries to let the humans be. He wants humans and apes to be segregated, but that arrangement soon becomes unacceptable for some in Caesar's clan, who perceive Caesar as weak about humans. Koba and others want the threat of man eliminatedm even though Malcolm, Ellie, and others want their work to somehow benefit the apes as well. Matt Reeves takes over the directorial duties for this chapter, and provides a fine, well-paced film. The action and fight sequences aren't remarkable, the evolution of the apes and the realities they face, for better and worse, compensate for the more ordinary elements of the movie.

I like the performances of the key characters as they try to keep problems from escalating. Clarke and Russell are strong as characters who prefer peace and rebuilding to aggression. When Malcolm has the chance to shoot apes who confront him, he raises his hands instead and drops his rifle. Russell shows ceaseless compassion as Ellie, who never stops helping ape and man as the situation changes. Oldman shows the open tension of the human survivors as Dreyfus, who will fight to the death to keep his people protected. Serkis, who's known for playing characters who aren't human, is one of the few actors to reprise a part from Rise, and sadly learns the price of gaining higher intellectual functions. James Franco is seen briefly in as Dr. Will Rodman in a scene where Caesar finds Will's old camcorder and plays some footage from it.

In Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, the apes started to show their ability to speak and their desire to live independently of man. In Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, Caesar not only strives for segregation of ape and man, but he tries to make his colony a utopia of sorts, wishing the differences amongst the apes will be accepted and keep them united. Dawn not only shows a new age of man, but a new age for the other primates. Nothing comes easily for either species, and anybody who has a knowledge of the source material knows more of the same lies ahead, in spite of anyone's best intentions.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes three stars. A sequel that is not bananas.


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