“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” — Serious Popcorn Fare (review)

As a ’70s kid, once obsessed with the “Planet of the Apes” movies, I’m a sucker for anything related to that five-film series. Who could resist those films’ mix of sci-fi, adventure, and grad-school philosophizing?

I’m happy to report that Matt Reeves’ “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” a sequel to Rupert Wyatt’s excellent “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (2011), is every bit as good as its predecessor, if not better.

 

As ape leader Caesar, Andy Serkis (AKA Gollum in the “Lord of the Rings” movies) is terrific, using motion-capture technology to effectively reveal a wide range of emotions as the simian whose loyalties are divided between his own tribe and the humans. Is it a metaphor for the Israeli/Palestinian conflict? Maybe.

The acting/CGI by the others “playing” apes is also impressive, particularly the work of Toby Kebbell as chief villain Koba, a warrior type, his psyche damaged by the pain and indignities he suffered during his early years in a medical laboratory. He’d rather fight than switch to a more peaceful strategy for getting along with the humans.

There are strong performances, too, by Jason Clarke as the human with a conscience, Gary Oldman as the unelected head of colony of human survivors (most folks on earth were wiped out by a plague), and Keri Russell, as Clarke’s love interest.

The visuals — post-disaster San Francisco, the humans’ settlement, the apes’ mountainside camp, the forest treks, the battle scene — are first rate, too.

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is definitely one of the great “popcorn” flicks of the summer (along with “Edge of Tomorrow” and “Godzilla”), and the film offers some interesting messages about co-existence, resource depletion, and the fog of war.

I saw it in 3-D, and would recommend seeing it that way. I’ll add that it’s a lot more fun than movies about guys in tights and capes saving the world, and giant robots battling giant robots.

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