Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes ***1/2

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Now this is what a big budget movie should be like. It is nice to see a studio tentpole that isn’t just spectacle. “Dawn of The Planet Of The Apes” tells a story about human and ape survival. It builds on the story that was set in motion in “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes” and takes it in to a surprising direction. Instead of making the apes the villains and the human’s in to heroes, the filmmakers have painted both sides almost equally. Each species are a mixed bag of conflicting ideals. Some of the humans and apes want peace but others in their respective camps want war and that’s where the conflict comes from.

As the film opens we see the ape society as it has evolved over the years since the first movie. Caesar, the ape that was the focus in “Rise” is now the leader. He has gathered a legion of followers who have built an entire city in trees of a forest on the outskirts of San Francisco. The apes lead a peaceful existence. Humanity on the other hand has been mostly wiped out by a virus. The last people in the area are living in a fortified tower within the ruins of the city.

When the humans and apes come in to contact by accident one of the apes gets shot out of fear and confusion. Caesar intervenes and orders the humans to leave. Prompted by Koba, a scarred Ape who holds a grudge against humans for his mistreatment, Caesar brings a large group of the apes to the city where he conveys the message that while the apes do not want war, they will fight to defend their home. He then demands that the humans stay in their territory and states the apes will stay in theirs, too.

Jason Clarke plays Malcolm, one of the leaders who humanity and Gary Oldman plays Dreyfus another leader. They are on opposite sides of war and peace. Malcolm wants to make a truce with the apes so they can restore a power plant on their territory that would restore power to the city. Dreyfus wants to attack and conquer. Eventually a deal is struck with Caesar to allow humans on their territory so they can get power going. The deal includes the assistance of the apes to speed up the process. The truce is rocky though as neither side truly trust each other.

Caesar and Malcom grow to understand one another. They seem to be the only two that can comprise and learn to live together. What is fascinating is how the extremists in each group are the ones that does not want a truce and believe that war is the only way to sort out their differences. This is not too far removed from what is happening in the world today.

The director is this time is Matt Reeves, who takes everything that worked in “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes” and takes it to a whole new level. He manages to not only create a frighteningly real post apocalyptic world but he can fill it with characters, both human and ape, each with different ideals that come in to contact.

Reeves also gets the visual effects teams to up their game dramatically. The apes look even more real, which I didn’t think was even possible. The actors that perform the motion capture combined with the artists who turn them in to apes have achieved a level of realism that was never thought possible. Just look at the apes, especially when they are in the rain, or at night, or in broad daylight. They always look like they are in their surroundings and real. It is breathtaking.

I feel like blockbuster flicks are coming back to a place where they tell a story with real substance and importance. “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes” joins recent movies like “Edge Of Tomorrow”, “X-Men Days Of Future Past” and the upcoming “Guardians Of The Galaxy” as big budget studio films that will really resonate with people and stay with them for years. Think of classic films like “Jurassic Park” and “Raiders of The Lost Ark”. These current films, I feel, will join those films as classic.

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