By Michael Siebenaler
This high-quality film continues the saga of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar (extremely well played by Andy Serkis—Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movies). His presence seeps through his ape image as he gives Caesar unique features in his role as leader. He looks around at every ape to get a sense of their feelings before making decisions, helping audiences relate to the ape community. The initial confrontation between humans and apes (alone worth the price of admission) showcases Caesar’s newly found leadership.
Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty) and Gary Oldman (Dark Knight) play Malcolm and Dreyfus, two leaders of the human group. Both speak volumes with their actions, and Dreyfus’ interaction with his tablet computer without dialogue justifies supplementary back stories for each leader.
Keri Russell (Mission Impossible III, TV’s The Americans) plays Malcolm’s wife Ellie while Caesar also has a pregnant wife and an older son “learning the ropes” alongside him. The special effects, storytelling, direction, and makeup are so good here that audiences can immerse themselves into this fantasy world where humans seek survival and apes form their society.
Matt Reeves replaces previous director Rupert Wyatt and is a big reason why this film succeeds on so many levels. The story impacts on a high level thanks to screenwriters Scott Z. Burns, Amanda Silver, Rick Jaffa, and Mark Bomback.
Recommended (***) and rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief strong language.