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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

"You. Are. Not. Ape."

Visually powerful and emotionally compelling, Matt Reeves' take on Caesar and the apes is noticeably more mature than the fairly grounded prequel/reboot that came out a few years ago.

Andy Serkis gets rightful top billing and is essentially the protagonist of the movie for the first half hour until Jason Clarke comes in, and even then the ape story takes priority over the human story.

The film succeeds mainly through it's ability to invest you in the most unlikely of characters, and even the ones that aren't in the movie enough to be related to or noticed as a major plot point (such as Gary Oldman) have their brief moments of relatable emotion and circumstance (such as the scene with the iPad).
The action is fluent and exciting, although it's mostly eerie tension throughout the first act, the second and third venture into some pretty dark and violent territory that works, but might just be a tad too long.

Sub-plots are scattered throughout and left mostly up to audience interpretation or subtlety, and one point that was hinted at throughout the first film comes back here in a big way and feels like a satisfying payoff to something I expected to happen in the first one.

Overall, Matt Reeves' take works through the element of surprise and emotion, it's hard to see what'll come next (though some typical blockbuster occurrences appear in the third act) and the characters are so interesting you don't even notice and hour-and-a-bit has gone by until the action kicks in. The film does have the occasional slow point, but it works very well with material that's difficult to pull off in a serious manner. This tale of apes sets itself up for a sequel, but if it ended here it would still feel like a satisfying conclusion to a series that has surprised me two-in-a-row.