Three summers ago
Now, in a disappointing July dominated with a shrug by
The director this time is
But not alone. One day in the forest (the movie was shot mostly in British Columbia) the apes encounter a human survivor, played by
"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" runs about 25 minutes longer than "Rise." The movie has trouble finding its rhythm in the third act and feels somewhat padded. Yet there's a lot going on in this film. As with the recent "Godzilla," there's an essential gravity to the mood here. And the human interest element is more present and persuasive in "Dawn," thanks to Clarke and his fellow Australian Kodi Smit-McPhee (of "Let Me In"), who plays his troubled son, and to reliable Keri Russell, as Clarke's lover, the kindest, warmest human left on the planet and one of the reasons Caesar doesn't kill them all in the first 30 minutes of the movie.
Serkis is the world's preeminent motion-capture performer, having lent his physicality and vocal flourishes to King Kong and "Lord of The Ring's" Gollum prior to the soulful, tormented Caesar of the "Apes" series. At this point in the motion-capture effects industry, there's little question of believing what we're seeing. We believe. We believe there is an actor, a real actor, in there, behind the eyes of the digital creation. This is why the film, despite its bloat and its overfondness for scenes of massacre, feels as if it were made by actual humans.
Two other things about this movie make it noteworthy. One is the musical score by composer Michael Giacchino, the best in the business right now. The tension and the atmosphere he evokes with a surprising array of instruments (he's especially creative in the percussion and keyboard realm) enhance every aspect of the viewing experience. It's an old-school sound, recalling elements of Jerry Goldsmith, among others, and it's remarkably free of bombast.
The other is the inescapable political element. I write this as a Chicagoan whose city has become an international symbol of gun violence bordering on insanity. In "Dawn," Caesar's ape colony has no use for firearms; only when Koba (
Following the "Dawn" screening I ducked into "Transformers 4" just long enough to see
"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" - 3 stars
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief strong language)
Running time: 2:10