It's about 10 years since the events of Rise of The Planet of the Apes. The virus that began to spread has crippled most of humanity and only a few isolated segments of people remain without power, heat or means of communication. One such segment is in San Francisco, near the lab where it all began and they are close to running out of food. When a small group of survivors head to the forest in hopes of finding and reviving an old damn that used to power the city, they run into a small group of Apes. What was once feared is now confirmed; not only have Cesar and the Apes survived, they have thrived near the dam and have created a home there. While initially there is an attempt to co-exist, inevitably this situation leads to a battle for power that will ultimately decide the fate of both species.
I thought this story was really well done and I was surprised at how moved I was by it. This was a great theatre experience and definitely surpassed it's predecessor Rise of The Planet of the Apes in terms of story telling. Time was taken to show how much progress the Apes had made and how they had formed their own society with education, laws and responsibilities; friendships and families; a peaceful, functional society. The world of the Apes was actually quite engrossing and this was crucial, because it allowed the events that followed to really resonate. The first half of the movie was spent developing the world of the Apes, I found this quite engaging and it really enhanced the film.
There were quite a few tense moments to keep you interested as there was always a sense of danger and suspense as things unfolded; this was a very enjoyable and entertaining experience for the over 2 hour running time. There are even a few light moments, such as when Koba (voiced by Toby Kebbal from Rock n Rolla, Wrath of the Titans) has an unexpected encounter with some humans. There's also a notably strong scene that is hinted at in the trailer is when Cesar returns to his old San Francisco home and finds an old video of Will (James Franco) teaching him. I thought this was a very subtle, but really powerful scene.
The cast of the film is outstanding. Andy Serkis (Gollum of The Lord of the Rings trilogy), Toby Kebbal (a mostly unknown actor to me) and the rest of the motion capture team have delivered some incredible work here! They breathed life into the Apes and are the very essence of this film; the movie industry needs to find a way to recognize this kind of motion capture work (outside of special effects), because without it these kinds of films simply don't work. Serkis's Cesar owns the screen; whether it's as a powerful ruler, a caring father or a somber ape missing his mentor and friend, Cesar is unquestionably an incredible cinematic creation and one that will not soon be forgotten. Kebbal's Koba is also a fascinating character that you love to hate. He runs the gamut from funny and loyal to conniving and treacherous.
Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight, Leon the Professional) as expected delivers a minor but spirited performance as Dreyfus, who's burdened with doing whatever it takes to ensure his people's survival, but is desperately trying to regain the humanity they've lost to the virus. Keri Russell (Felicity and The Americans) isn't given much of a role, but quietly shines as Ellie in a few tender scenes. Jason Clarke however, produces a fantastic performance as Malcolm and throughout the film (along with Cesar) provides its emotional centre. As the film culminates, he and Cesar share a stunningly power scene that left me unexpectedly fighting back tears as it was incredibly moving (that really surprised me).
But what makes this movie great are the special effects, they are incredible! Make no mistake, the stars of this film are Cesar, Koba and the Apes. I was amazed how emotions were conveyed in a very genuine, almost human way; so much so that you can't help but be invested in their story. Love, rage, jealousy, sadness, humiliation, fear, dominance, forgiveness; they are all on full display here to amazing effect. You almost forget you're watching special effects driven characters and get lost in them. Again, the special effects guys did a fantastic job here, I can't say that enough. I didn't think the 3D really added that much depth to the movie movie personally, so the film I'm sure will be just as enjoyable if you watch a non 3D screening. There also plenty of meaningful and believable action in this film as well, so if that's your main draw you won't be disappointed either.
I felt there was an interesting theme throughout the film of the fragility of peace and the great lengths that one must go to in order to preserve it. Cesar believed that "ape not harm ape", but as the film progressed, he eventually realizes that this is not always possible. Despite one having the best of intentions, sometimes violence and the exertion of authority is the only means to maintain peace. An ironic, yet very sobering in it's accurate portrayal of society. I appreciated that the film didn't bash me over the head with it and kept it fairly subtle. This is a fantastic film from start to finish and a wonderful technical achievement; I'm definitely looking forward to the conclusion of this trilogy! This easily unseats X-Men: Days of Future Past as the best film of the year to date. If you're going to see one movie at the theatres this summer: this is it.
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Review by TheCanadianMovieSnob from the Internet Movie Database.