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Laramie Movie Scope:
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Another dawn, another ape

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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July 17, 2014 -- If you haven't gotten tired of seeing “Planet of the Apes” movies by now, here is number eight since the first one, back in 1968. Frankly, I'm getting a bit tired of this series of films, but the latest two, this one and the previous one “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (shouldn't the Dawn come before the Rise?) are a big step up, as far as motion picture technology goes. It's the ideas behind the story that are starting to get stale after nearly 50 years.

In this film, most of humanity has been wiped out by an epidemic caused by a genetically engineered virus which is related to the virus that caused the apes to get smarter. The apes have been living in hills north of San Francisco, while the humans have been holed up in downtown San Francisco. The humans are running out of diesel fuel for their generators (they haven't heard of solar power yet) and they are planning to reopen a small hydroelectric dam in the hills north of San Francisco in order to maintain the city's power supply.

An expedition to the dam leads to an encounter between the intelligent apes and the not-so-intelligent men, who somehow didn't know the apes were there. A trigger-happy man, Carver (Kirk Acevedo of “The Walking Dead” TV series) shoots one of the apes and almost starts a war. However, the leader of the team, Malcolm (Jason Clarke of “The Great Gatsby”) and the leader of the apes, Caesar (played by Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in the “Lord of the Rings” films) arrange a truce.

Eventually, a deal is worked out to allow a small team of humans to reopen the hydroelectric dam, but the truce is threatened by suspicion and fear on both sides of the human-ape divide. Both the good guys and the bad guys are caricatures in this movie. The bad guys, Carver and Dreyfus (Gary Oldman of the recent Batman movies) represent aggression and intolerance, while the good guys, led by Malcolm and Caesar represent the forces of peace, tolerance and diversity, as in racial and ethnic diversity.

Basically, this is a morality play. It is not hard to see the parallels between the ape-human strife in this film and the sad history of human racial and ethnic strife here and around the world. If Catholics and Protestants can have wars over such slight differences, then certainly there will be wars between humans and apes.

There are no real surprises in this film, given the long history behind this story. You are better off not knowing all that history. That would make this film seem a lot fresher. In the old days, the apes were played by people in ape costumes, and the makeup was quite clever. In the newer films, the apes are largely the product of motion-capture and computer animation. This technology has come a long way in recent years, but Andy Serkis remains the master of the art of motion-capture acting, and he is at his best in this film as the thoughtful, conflicted leader of the apes. Also good is one of the military leaders of the apes, Koba (played by Toby Kebbell of “The Counselor”). Oldman, Keri Russel and Clarke also give good performances, given the limitations of the script.

The movie looks good in 3D and the special effects are impressive. There are impressive fight scenes and set designs. The basic morality play structure of the story is compelling enough. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2014 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)