A DIFFERENT BREED: Apes and humans square off in the Matt Reeves-helmed prequel.
But that's not the only source of conflict supplying the action-packed, ferociously entertaining Dawn of the Planet of the Apes its pounding heartbeat. An epic power struggle among the primates, fuelled by grave mistrust of humans, builds to a devastating, explosive climax. And that's when the film yields some of its most spectacular visuals and electrifying special effects.
A prequel like Dawn (sure to be a summer favourite among the popcorn crowd) is hardly about the performances, yet director Matt Reeves elicits strong turns from a cast that includes Zero Dark Thirty's Jason Clarke (above, as the mission leader who ventures deep into ape territory to make a deal); Keri Russell (the good-natured girlfriend with a healing touch) and Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight Rises), who nabs a few scenes as the city's hot-tempered military leader.
On the surface, Dawn might be a combustible cauldron of tension and survival strategy, but it has its touching moments (the birth of Caesar's newborn son, for instance) and memorable depictions of how fiercely family protects its own. Tyrone's Verdict: A-