All hail Andy Serkis

With this latest incarnation from “The Planet of the Apes,” Director Matt Reeves (Let me in) has finally pried the franchise free of cold, dead hands of Charlton Heston.

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is the much-anticipated sequel to Reeve’s 2011 smash, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” That movie left off with a grand battle atop the Golden Gate Bridge, with our simian cousins taking the upper hand.

In the intervening years things have not gotten much better for the humans. The plague that was released in Rise has spread across the globe, leaving only 1 in every 500 people unaffected.

The apes, however, are doing quite well for themselves. They have flourished in the wild hills around San Francisco and have developed a highly sophisticated society. They even have a Duck Dynasty grasp of the human language, allowing them to effectively communicate and build their utopia.

The film was immensely enjoyable. I wasn’t sure if they could recapture the magic of Rise with a completely different cast, but I was pleasantly surprised. Jason Clark (Zero Dark Thirty) and Kerri Russell (The Americans) were outstanding in their roles as “good humans.”

They are a scouting party who were sent into the hills of San Francisco by a group of plague-resistant humans trying to turn the lights back on by start up the hydroelectric power station at the dam, north of Frisco.

There is only one real problem with this movie: they forgot that Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight Rises) was in the film. His may be the most insignificant character in the entire movie.  They could’ve easily had some no-name play the role with the exact same results. Such a waste.

The real star of this movie is Caesar, played by Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings). The reason I say Caesar and not Serkis is because you really forget that Caesar is not a real ape. The stop motion capture work on this film is a good as any other film using that technology today.

Serkis has been overlooked for his amazing talent when playing such roles. His ability to lend emotional depth to Caesar is outstanding. The integration of human, beast and machine is what really makes this movie standout.

That and this is an anti-gun movie, which makes me happy. There is only one really bad guy in the film: Guns.

This movie really perches a message of non-violence by using violence as the juxtaposition between humans and apes. I love it when Gary Oldman screams, “They’re just animals!” Yes, and so are we; we are all just animals.

This movie scores on an assortment of levels, but the clincher for me was that it was a two-hour film that felt like 30-minutes. This movie was seamless in its transitions from movie to message. We need more films like this.

4 out of 5

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