Those damn dirty apes are back on At the Movies this week, and while Peter Travers may have left his monkey suit on the subway, he's got plenty to say about the extraordinary Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
While the Planet of the Apes franchise has been beleaguered by awful sequels since the brilliant Charlton Heston-starring original premiered in 1968, Dawn proves to be a fitting follow-up to the surprisingly excellent 2011 prequel, Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
Set 10 years after the events of Rise, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes does not feature James Franco, but boasts a remarkable first hour which focuses primarily on the apes. "I've never seen the art of digital work so well," Travers raves, singling out yet another stunning motion-capture performance from Andy Serkis, who stars as the chief ape, Caesar. "This is the best motion-capture performance ever, it's as good as when Andy Serkis did Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy."
Things start to go somewhat south, however, when a group of human survivors show up. It's not that Travers has anything negative to say about the performances of Gary Oldman, Keri Russell and Jason Clarke; it's just the story of the apes alone made for a far more entertaining film.
Dawn's primary conflict stems from Caesar's clash with Koba, who believes the apes should not make peace with the humans, and it's here, Travers says, that the movie takes on a "fake profundity." The movie doesn't need it, but Travers still loves Koba's line, "Ape no kill ape," adding, "Critic no give plot spoilers."
So while the human storylines may not be worth your time, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes as a whole is, with Travers saying it has "the best Hollywood can do in terms of technology. It takes you into this other world, you believe it, you look into Caesar's eyes and you say, 'I'm here. I am in the planet of the apes.'"