Years after all human life is decimated by the simian virus, Ceasar, leader of the apes, lives a peaceful and happy life with his family. A small group of exploring humans lead to the apes discovering a large surviving community of humans who need access to the dam near to the apes’ home for power. But with trust in short supply between the apes and humans, attempts to restart the dam are undermined by human nature and the bitterness of some of the apes; threatening to destroy any hope of peace.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) – Director: Matt Reeves

Is Dawn of the Planet of the Apes appropriate for kids

Rating: 12

Running Length: 130 mins

Starring: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman

Genre: Drama, Science Fiction

REVIEW

The second in the series of prequels that seek to explore the backstory of the 1960’s and ‘70’s ‘Planet of the Apes’ movies, ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ continues the story of Caesar as he leads the apes that he freed in ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ – as well as a whole new generation –  and enjoys family life with his ‘wife’, son (Blue Eyes) and newborn baby. The introduction of the humans rocks the ape community with each one having a different opinion of what should be done.

Where this movie falls down is its lack of depth. The story follows a typical route of trust and distrust with no twists or turns to pique interest and the characters have no progress beyond their obvious immediate personality types. With the exception of Dreyfus (played by Gary Oldman), all characters are simply ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Dreyfus is fair, although cautious, but is also, fatally, too bland; he serves to move the plot more than fill the screen. There are several leaps of logic where either massive assumptions are made or the confusing motivations make it seem like scenes have been cut out. Someone is blamed for something they didn’t do and, despite the fact that other characters have witnessed the event, they seem to have forgotten the details later.

The movie is both clichéd and dull; there are no surprises and events play out in such a tired and signposted way that they can be foreseen far before they arrive. The fight scenes are entertaining but the movie is dragged down with excessive and uninteresting plot which doesn’t fully explain what has happened in the years since the virus first began to spread. The audience must assume that Will (the previous movie’s protagonist) died from the virus as other than a brief video of his early days with Caesar, he isn’t mentioned at all.

‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ brought a genuine human storyline between Will and his father (who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease) and Caesar’s bond with them is very believable. However, the human interactions in ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ seems very forced and unnatural. Sadly, this movie will be disappointing for those expecting an action-packed story of the struggles between humans and apes and although it continues the story for any future ‘Planet of the Apes’ films, it is probably the weakest (Tim Burton’s 2001 version was poor but it at least had action and plot!).

IS ‘DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?

The movie opens with the apes hunting deer in the forest where they live. There are dozens of apes many of which look very aggressive; they bare their teeth and screech and growl. A lot of this is done very close to the screen so it could be quite scary for some children. One of the apes is attacked by a bear which appears suddenly and roars menacingly. This part of the scene lasts for around a minute and is very intense.

One of the apes is shot by a human; the camera shows this side-on and when the shot is heard, the ape is thrown backwards by the force of the bullet. It initially seems as though the ape must be dead, however it is quickly shown that he is just wounded and survives the encounter.

When Malcolm enters the ape community after being warned to stay away, he is followed and surrounded by apes; initially by gorillas who tower above him, and then the mob is joined by chimps and other apes. He is brought before Caesar and forced to his knees more than once. One ape stands behind him with a large, sharpened tree branch ready to kill him if Caesar orders it. This scene lasts for a few minutes and becomes increasingly tense.

One of the apes murders two human characters in cold blood. They are minor characters but are friendly in the scenes that they are in. This could be upsetting for a lot of children as the ape is very deceptive and clearly enjoys killing them. This ape also murders a more established character by using his fists to smash his skull. The murder is close to the screen but because of an object being in the way, all that can be seen is the ape raising his fists and slamming them down a couple of times. The human struggles and cries out but this suffering is not overly distressing and is over quite quickly.

The final third of the movie is the ape attack on the human community. Before this happens, the humans are seen to be happy and dancing, the camera focuses on several young children, making it clear that they will be victims of the attack (although no children are seen to die). The attack is very aggressive and violent with apes and humans being killed. Little blood is seen but bodies slump to the floor, some are caught up in explosions and screams are heard when people are killed. One ape orders another to murder a human who is a civilian and begging for mercy, leading to an intense but short stand-off between them.

CAN I SEE A CLIP?

VERDICT

A somewhat boring attempt at a prequel sequel, ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ it likely to be a disappointment for fans of the franchise, however the action sequences are enough to keep a lot of people gripped and the continuity of the plot will help draw in many movie fans. This is not a film that has been aimed at a child audience, however, it may be enjoyable for older children who like the concept of the film and who may have watched ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’. We feel that this movie should be suitable for kids aged 9 and over but recommend caution as there is more violence throughout than its predecessor and this can be very intense.

  • Violence: 3/5 (not overly graphic but the violence and threat often becomes intense)
  • Emotional Distress: 2/5 (one character sees photos of his family who presumably died from the virus making him upset. This moment is brief and not lingered upon)
  • Fear Factor: 4/5 (a lot of intense threat from the apes. It is often unclear how they will react to certain situations and the trust between the communities is constantly on a knife-edge)
  • Sexual Content: 0/5       
  • Bad Language: 3/5 (some moderate cursing and blasphemy throughout. Some curse words are prefixed with ‘holy’ and one strong curse word is used)
  • Dialogue: 2/5 (some mentions and implication of hate and revenge, one ape tells another that while in a lab ‘they cut me, tortured me’)
  • Other notes: Deals with themes of family, trust, revenge, friendship with those who are not your kind, not knowing who can be trusted and making difficult decisions.

Words by Laura Record

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