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Movie Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The old saying goes “everything old is new again.” Except when it comes to the summer movie crop of 2014, in which all the retreads, reboots, and remakes seem like those that came before. And Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is no exception. This particular cycle of cinema began in 1968 with the original film Planet of the Apes, which spawned four sequels, two TV series, a 2001 remake from director Tim Burton which was less than well-received, then 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which I recall was actually pretty good. Now comes the 2014 Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which is pretty much a casserole of plot points, social commentary, and high-tech action scenes in yet another effort to mine bags of box office coin from a proven commodity.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is directed by Matt Reeves, who was responsible for Cloverfield, a sci-fi monster movie that has a large following of appreciative fans. I tried three times to watch Cloverfield but never made it past the first thirty minutes. And like Cloverfield, Apes the style of that earlier film. The most recognizable names and faces in the new Apes saga are Gary Oldman and Keri Russell. The rest of the performers are ok in their roles, but are not likely to enhance their salary scales based on this film. The style is a current favorite in filmmaking that I like to call “dark grunge.” This means that a lot of scenes are at night, during rainfall, or other obscured visions. Civilization has been decimated and everything is in ruins. Like this summer’s earlier reboot, Godzilla, the city at the heart of this film is San Francisco.

I’m not saying that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a bad film… it’s just another one in a long-lasting franchise. Production values are competent from the craftspeople involved. The running time, at 131 minutes, is a bit more than needed, but that’s a frequent complaint about current films. And instead of leaving the viewer with anticipation for the next APES film, all I could muster was a resigned “there will be another one,” and a nostalgic “gee, I sure miss Charlton Heston.”

The PG-13 rated Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is now playing just about everywhere.