‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ – Apes unite on Max and Hulu

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) picks up a decade after Rise of the Planet of the Apes, as the human population is recovering from the devastation of the virus unleashed at the end of that film and the human community has first contact with the ape civilization living in the forest outside of San Francisco.

There’s a strong story involving the relationship between two families who reach across the species divide, led by Caesar (Andy Serkis in a brilliant and rich motion capture performance), who is both husband and father to his family and benevolent leader of the simian tribe, and Jason Clarke as an engineer trying to repair an electrical damn to power the human reclamation of San Francisco.

They are the exceptions, however. The older apes remember the abuse they suffered at the hands of humans and the humans blame the apes for the virus (never mind that it was created by humans) and have an instinctual suspicion of any animal that can speak. It has a powerful resonance as a metaphor for wars of cultural animosity, hatred and mistrust, with human and ape both equating the worst actions of the other with the entire species.

Matt Reeves, whose Let Me In was an evocative adaptation of the Swedish horror film Let the Right One In, delivers both action spectacle and character drama, and he rightfully centers the entire film on Caesar, the noble leader who understands the best and worst of humanity, and has to come to terms with the worst of his own tribe as both sides push for war rather than co-existence. The film opens on Caesar’s eyes as he leads a hunt and it ends back on those weary but set eyes, contemplating the coming war that is now inevitable.

Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Kirk Acevedo costar in the human cast and the motion capture performers in the ape clan include Toby Kebbell, Nick Thurston, Terry Notary, Karin Konoval, and Judy Greer.

It earned an Academy Award nomination for visual effects.

The 21st century trilogy concludes with War for the Planet of the Apes (2017).

Rated PG-13

Also on Blu-ray and DVD and on SVOD through Amazon Video, iTunes, GooglePlay, Vudu and/or other services. Availability may vary by service.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes [Blu-ray]
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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes [DVD]

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Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears at RogerEbert.com, Turner Classic Movies online, The Film Noir Foundation, and Parallax View.

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