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“Dawn” follows 10 years after the outbreak of a virus that happened in part one of the reboot / prequel, and the apes used the time to develop sign language, some form of voice skills, and have established themselves happily in the woods, appearing like a regular pre-industrialised society. While the first part was mainly about the human’s ethical considerations and worries, about how to treat animals and whether there is a limit to “improving” on evolution, this second part is mostly about the apes. Which, by the way, are astonishingly well CGI’ed… Only in a few mass crowd scenes with plenty of apes running and climbing did I ever get the feeling of being in a special effects scene. From the very beginning, I was fully immersed and completely accepted that it’s the primates I am witnessing now, that I am sitting in their midst and do not even worry about the fact that they are signing and talking and teaching their little ones simple writing skills. Wow, spectacularly well done!

Story-wise: not so well done…  the humans have been reduced by the virus released in the previous film to become a struggling minority breed on the planet, and they take a minority position in the script. There are good ones (Jason Clarke, the torture guy from “Zero Dark Thirty” seems to have decided that it’s about time he is fixing his screen image) and there’s the bad guys (who do get what they deserve, of course). But the story is driven by ape considerations and ape straegy, and by an ape palace revolt, with Caesar in competition for the leadership position with one of his less gentle and more scarred peers. So it’s basically Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesear”, but in ape society, plus stolen machine guns. An action version of a straightforward story with plain vanilla heroes and plain vanilla villains, and this is where it gets a bit silly…

At some point, the film seems to surrender to the fact that it is, after all, a silly action film about apes taking over the planet. That is when there is an attack by the apes on horseback, wielding machine guns and pretending to be something like a mix of Braveheart and Die Hard. Nobody can watch this with a straight face. You need to very good at scripting this kind of film in the first place. If you put apes in the “shoes” (no shoes, of course, maybe next time) of the warriors, you need to extremely good, indeed, to avoid getting ludicrous. I got the feeling that it was all a bit ludicrous, and the lack of surprise elements or interesting turns in the plot did its own bit. This would have been a slightly disappointing, if impressive, action flick if it was set in a human environment. With them apes… a bit more disappointing still.

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/dawn_of_the_planet_of_the_apes/

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