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DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

              

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Dec. 5, 2014

When the "Planet of the Apes" franchise went into reboot mode a few years ago with "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," I was dubious. After all, the 1970s sequels to the original film fulfilled the law of diminishing returns with each new effort. And Tim Burton's 2002 remake was a genuine disappointment.

But "Rise" turned out well, charting the origin story of how the apes became highly intelligent creatures and therefore a threat to humanity, which was only alluded to in the early films.

And this latest entry, "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," now on Blu-ray and DVD, is also an enjoyable fantasy in what will no doubt be a continuing series of films, as it was enormously popular worldwide.

In this one, the world has deteriorated into a typical movie vision of a post-apocalyptic future, pitting the community of apes, which established itself north of San Francisco in the first film, against some of the few remaining humans on the planet, thanks to a deadly scourge of "simian flu." The film is about how war develops between the species, and the plotting and character development is smart and engaging.

Andy Serkis again dominates in his motion-capture performance as Caesar, the chimpanzee who has become leader of the ape society, and Judy Greer is effective as his wife.

     

Keri Russell, Kodi Smit-McPhee and friend in 'Dawn'

The human performances are also very good, with Gary Oldman as their anti-ape leader, and Jason Clarke and Keri Russell trying to negotiate their ability to tread deep into ape territory to re-establish power to the city. But conflicts, bigotry on both sides and miscommunications cause a rift between the two societies.

"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" avoids the sophomore slump that afflicts so many film series and concludes on a note that leaves open the possibility for a compelling fantasy franchise to continue.