Continuing  the classic saga relaunched by Rise of the Planet of the Apes, director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) takes the sci-fi genre back to its socially conscious roots.  Written by  Mark Bomback, Dawn takes place ten years after the events of  Rise in a world where 90% of the population has been struck down by Simian Flu.  Told in a series of short films, the world has turned into a desolate wasteland, much like what I assume a prequel to “The Last Man on Earth” would be like.  It is in this world that we find Caesar (played by nerd pinup Andy Serkis), the highly evolved ape.  He, along with ape kind and aided by the intelligence brought forth by the virus have built themselves a society, complete with language and a structured class system.  Soon, a group of humans led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke) encounter the apes in the wild whilst trying to re-activate a hydro-electric dam to provide much needed power to the survivors.  With neither society aware of the others presence, this encounter sparks fear into the hearts of both Caesar and human leader Dreyfus (played by recently controversial Gary Oldman)

When Planet of the Apes first introduced in the ’60s (first as a book, then a 5-part film series), it’s aim, underneath the absurd, was a clear anti-nuclear message. The use of sci-fi to examine modern society was common.  Star Trek used the Federation to look a future without borders, and alien species to examine the ridiculous nature of racism.  The Day the Earth Stood Still, like the Planet of the Apes examined the dangerous potential of nuclear power.  Soylent Green looks into the problem of world hunger and an increasing population.  One only need watch the first half of Dawn to see these tactics in full effect.

The CGI in  this movie is incredible, and has come a long way, no longer getting in the way of a believable narrative.  Despite this, the action scenes are not the entire focus, and it is rather the human experience (of both ape and man) that carries the weight of the blockbuster.  The life in the eyes of “Blue Eyes” (Nick Thurston) has a haunting beauty I had never experienced from 1’s and 0’s.  The story unfolds with Shakespearean intensity, exploring the age old conflicts of Father vs Son, Man vs Society and Knowledge vs Fear.

blue eyes

I approached this movie as fan of the originals, and although it lacks the swagger of Charlton Heston, it contains much of the same heart.  I highly recommend this movie as a theater experience, for the world that is created is best viewed in a large screen in 3D.  Also, if you have yet to see the original 1968 classic, it is essential viewing for anyone who is a fan of the genre.  In spite of the beauty of this film, I give it a B due to cliche B-grade acting from Kirk Acevedo (Oz) whose contribution to the movie only led me to feel uncertain about the upcoming remake of beloved cult classic 12 Monkeys and cheer for the annihilation of the human race.

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