“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.
Yes, you will believe a chimp can talk, ride a horse and fire a machine gun.
These evolved animated apes have fur with feeling, expressive faces, fangs and eyes that show them well on their way to being human.
“Dawn” illustrates the accelerating pace of improvements to CGI as these apes — 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?,” then 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, snippets of newscasts from around the world tell us. Few survived.
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.
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. The Ape in Chief doesn’t stutter when he issues an order to the intruders.
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‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’
Starring: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell. (Intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief strong language)