'Dawn' compelling, predictable, sci-fi
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is an action-packed epic, a moving sci-fi allegory rendered in broad, lush strokes by the latest state of the computer animator's art.
“Dawn” illustrates the accelerating pace of improvements to CGI — with performances built around motion-capture-suited actors Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbell, among others — in sequences so dazzling your jaw will drop.
It's all in service of an utterly conventional story, however, one you'll be three steps ahead of even if you have no memories of the '70s “Apes” movie (“Battle for the Planet of the Apes”) this is largely based on. If you've ever seen a cavalry-vs.-Indians Western, a war movie built around pacifist efforts that ask “Can't we all just get along?”, you'll see this genre piece's plot twists coming.
In a brisk opening-credits sequence, we see the world's collapse post-”Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” “The Simian Flu” felled much of the human race.
Meanwhile, the first scientifically evolved ape, Caesar (Serkis), has led his tribe into the Muir Woods, where they've built a village, mastered fire, SSL (Simian Sign Language) and horseback riding, isolated and safe from human interference.
“Humans destroyed each other,” Caesar counsels. So, apes must live by a higher code: “Ape not kill ape.”
Then some humans, led by the curious and compassionate Malcolm (Jason Clarke), encounter the colony. Caesar strikes a pose at the head of his legions, and the humans, even though they're armed to the teeth, tremble.
Of course, the humans have need of something within ape territory. Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) is ready to arm the troops and invade. But Malcolm, his Centers for Disease Control girlfriend (Keri Russell) and son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) are given a couple of days to work out a treaty, get the electrical power back on and save humans and apes from what is sure to be a bloody war.
Director Matt (“Cloverfield”) Reeves and his team make good use of 3-D space as we see apes swinging through real trees in the Muir Woods, and by power lines through digitally rendered ruins of San Francisco, including the Golden Gate Bridge.
They get less use out of the cast.
There are advocates of violence in both camps, and the paranoid have a point. Trusting the other side could lead to human or simian extinction. Wary foes stare each other down as they, and we, wait for some hothead's miscalculation to ignite a war.
It's hard to know who to root for, which was always the point of these movies. Yeah, we're obligated to hope humanity doesn't go extinct, even if we brought this down on ourselves. But the apes in “Dawn” are awfully darned appealing, learning the hard way that ape lesson of Stanley Kubrick's “2001: A Space Odyssey” — that murder and treachery are the traits that make us, and them, most human.
Roger Moore reviews movies for McClatchy-Tribune News Service.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Review: Redmayne becomes Stephen Hawking for inspiring ‘Theory of Everything’
- Review: ‘Horrible Bosses 2’ isn’t about bosses at all
- Review: ‘Penguins’ has plenty for kids and parents
- Five memorable movies by Mike Nichols
- DVD reviews: ‘Begin Again,’ ‘Wish I was Here’ and ‘Life of Crime’
- DVD reviews: ‘22 Jump Street,’ ‘Sin City: A Dame to Kill For’ and ‘It Happened One Night’
- Commentary: Witherspoon, Ellison are changing movies