DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES: Starring Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke. Directed by Matt Reeves. 130 minutes. Rated M (Violence and infrequent coarse language)
By John Mulderig
THOSE super-sentient simians are back in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”.
Though it’s not a film for kids, this latest addition to a franchise based on the work of French science-fiction author Pierre Boulle (1912-94) has enough going for it to please most adults.
Grown-ups also will find the themes underlying director Matt Reeves’ 3-D follow-up to the 2011 reboot “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” congruent with Christian values.
A decade after a pandemic called Simian Flu wiped out most of the human race, a band of survivors – led by a former law enforcement official named Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) – occupies the ruins of San Francisco.
With their fuel supply running dangerously low, they send out an expedition aimed at restoring a damaged hydro-electric plant to the north of the city.
En route, however, the mission’s team members – including widowed architect Malcolm (Jason Clarke), his teenage son Alex (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and his nurse girlfriend Ellie (Keri Russell) – encounter, and clash with, a community of genetically evolved apes living in nearby Muir Woods.
As a potential war looms, the primates’ wise chief Caesar (Andy Serkis) works with Malcolm to prevent bloodshed.
If this peaceable duo represents the best of their respective species – each is shown to be motivated by concern for his family – the other end of the spectrum is embodied by Caesar’s aggressive deputy Koba (Toby Kebbell) and Malcolm’s irascible colleague Carver (Kirk Acevedo).
Koba was a victim of torturous lab experimentation, while Carver holds the apes responsible for the ravages of Simian Flu.
Via these positive and negative role models, Reeves blends pleas for tolerance and trust in with the considerable, though largely bloodless, combat action.
While thoroughly honourable, the script’s messages are delivered somewhat heavy-handedly.
Still, Serkis’ striking performance, together with top-notch special effects, elevates Reeves’ sequel above run-of-the-mill entertainment.
The film contains frequent stylised violence, at least one use each of profanity and rough language as well as several crude and crass terms.
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.