Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Japan title: Saru no Wakusei: Shinseki Rising)
Director Matt Reeves
Language English
Opens Sept. 19

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (2011) was the boldest, most inventive series reboot Hollywood has attempted in recent years, and I’m happy to report that its sequel keeps pushing the envelope. “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” begins a decade after the previous film and its opening montage of a virus wiping out most of humanity is chilling indeed, especially with Ebola currently raging out of control in Africa. A haunting shot from Earth’s orbit shows lights slowly going out across the globe.

The apes who escaped their labs for the redwoods outside San Francisco have thrived in the absence of humanity, but when a scouting party of survivors shows up looking to power a nearby hydroelectric facility, a misunderstanding leads to conflict. (Also, a blockbuster movie that sends the message “We don’t hate you, but we need our energy, so we have to invade you” is incredible.)

Andy Serkis’ remarkable performance as Caesar — the ape raised by humans and given an intelligence-enhancing drug — was the linchpin of the first film, and he continues to work his motion-capture magic here, capably assisted by the effects team at Weta Digital. “Dawn” really marks a new pinnacle of expressiveness in digital animation.

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