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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes / Rated PG-13 for violence, language and apes living in unsanitary conditions.

Pierre Boulle (1912-1994) was a French writer known for two literary works made into successful films. Based on his own WWII experiences as an engineer, he penned The Bridge over the River Kwai, published in 1952 and an acclaimed best seller. It was a fictionalized account of his WWII experiences as a prisoner of war forced to build bridges for Japan. It was made into a film that debuted in 1957. The film won seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Alec Guiness’ great performance.

Other works were successful, but he wasn’t on the big screen again until his 1963 book La Planet de Singes was translated into English in 1964, and re-titled planet of the Apes in the 1968 film. Directed by Franklin Schaffner, it starred Charlton Heston and premiered to wide acclaim in 1968. The rest is history. Four sequels from 1970 through 1973 followed. “Apemania” reached its zenith with toys and games, a Marvel comic book and animated TV series. A Tim Burton-directed remake came out in 2001, and in 2011 the series rebooted with Rise of Planet of the Apes. And now, Dawn of Planet of the Apes.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is well-made, but a little too long for the storyline and action sequences. Andy Serkis, a brilliant actor, again plays the ape Caesar. (He had a bigger role as the ape King Kong in the most recent reincarnation of that story in 2006. He also played Lumpy in the same film.) In DOTPOTA the story is about the conflict with the apes now living in Muir Woods (north of San Francisco) and a few human survivors in a San Francisco enclave. The apes fight with each other and with the humans. The humans also fight among themselves as well as against the apes. Like the 2011 film, everything leads up to a big San Francisco battle for supremacy.

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Along the way there’s a bit of soap opera and intrigue. Much of it inspires little more than yawns in the audience. Plot techniques that we have seen before occur with predictable regularity. There is a great dark and brooding score by Oscar winner Michael Giacchino. The ending leaves lots of room for a Part III.

For those who never saw the original 1978 film, it’s available on Blu-ray for under $10. The disc has lots of extras, including commentary by the stars and honorary Oscar winner for make up, John Chambers. The legendary atonal score by composer Jerry Goldsmith was also nominated for an Oscar, and the Blu-ray edition contains rare commentary by Goldsmith as well. Also available are boxed sets of all of the films and TV series trying to cash in on the current box office release. Could “Apemania” make a comeback?

Rated 3.0 out of 4.0 reasons this film is above average almost entirely due to Andy Serkis. Part man, part ape.

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