Dawn of the Planet of the Apes **

Is it worth $10? No

You don’t expect an action movie about apes ruling the planet to be emotionally manipulative, yet here we are with “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” Need to sympathize with the apes? Director Matt Reeves (“Cloverfield”) shows us ape leader Caesar (Andy Serkis) tenderly enjoying the birth of his son. Need us to root for the humans against the bad apes? Reeves gives us human leader Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) crying over old family photos. Throw in some preachy platitudes about humans destroying themselves and you have an aggressively unsatisfying movie that’s an endurance test to sit through.

It’s ten years after the events of “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (2011), and mankind is almost completely extinct thanks to a deadly simian flu. Caesar reigns over the ape homestead in Muir Woods outside San Francisco. Humans live in the city, but with their power supply dwindling Dreyfus allows Malcolm (Jason Clarke), his girlfriend Ellie (Keri Russell) and others to venture into the ape’s stronghold to access a damn in the hope of gaining power. Caesar, along with cohorts Maurice (Karin Konoval) and Rocket (Terry Notary), believes the humans will come and go peacefully. Caesar’s second-in-command, Koba (Toby Kebbell), doesn’t trust humans, and drags Caesar’s son Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston) along in revolt. 

The story has “twists” that the writers may think are clever but any discerning filmgoer will find tired and lazy. Think about it: Is audience satisfaction possible if some form of ape vs. human war doesn’t break out? Of course not. Yet we’re forced to sit through extensive will-they-or-won’t-they moments as the inevitable transpires. Do not underestimate how boring this is.

The ape visual effects were created using motion capture technology, in which an actor wears a bodysuit that provides the digital outline for his/her primate to be created later in post-production. It’s a cool process that’s better than what we saw in “Rise,” but still doesn’t dazzle for an obvious reason: Anyone who’s been to a zoo knows what apes look like, so to see an ape on screen is nothing special. Picky as they are, audiences don’t care about the Weta Digital machine (Peter Jackson’s company, the same that worked on “King Kong”) that computer-generated every single ape. Audiences also don’t care about the time it took to render the effects, or even how detailed and impressive they are. Apes are just apes, right? All an audience member cares about during “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is riveting action and thorough entertainment, neither of which are provided.

Not helping the apes or humans are washed-out visuals that mute the screen and inhibit images from truly “popping” with vibrant 3D life. This is important because millions of dollars were spent on the visual effects, and it’s the best thing the movie has going for it, yet the appeal is lost with an image that looks dull. How could this happen?

The ending expectedly sets up a third film, but at this point the rebooted franchise is 0 for 2 and the prospects are bleak for the future. How about this? I, as a human being, am conceding the planet to the apes. Here, take it. We humans had a good run. Just please don’t make me sit through another one of these movies.

Did you know?

James Franco, the star of “Rise,” appears in a photo and home video here. It doesn’t appear to be original footage, meaning the Franco we see is a holdover from the “Rise” production.

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