“DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES” My rating: B (Opening wide on July 11)
130n minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13
Despite the overwhelming evidence, there is no rule that big summer blockbuster films have to be insufferably dumb.
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is actually pretty smart.
Oh, not in its plotting, which is all too familiar. Or in the acting from the “human” cast, which is perfunctory.
But in creating a world 10 years after the great ape revolution depicted in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” director Matt Reeves (“Let Me In,” “Cloverfield”) and his huge team (the closing credits feel as long as the rest of the movie) have given us a vision that is part Eden, part sci-fi dystopia and populated with monkeys who at their best generate real emotions.
The film begins with a thrilling deer hunt by ape leader Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his followers through the primordial greenery of Muir Woods. Screenwriters Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, and Mark Bomback envision the apes as a sort of undiscovered South American tribe living in a sprawling Ewok-ish town of massive “nests.”
These apes eschew the technology of the humans who once persecuted them, but they do make their own weapons of wood and stone. Most communicate through sign language (we get subtitles), though Caesar and a few other chimps have learned to speak. They create their own versions of totem poles (assemblages of sticks and animal bones) and some of the females even wear rudimentary jewelry.
Most striking of all, the apes have a school, taught by an orangutan who understands human writing. (In the previous film we learned how the simians gained human-like intelligence as subjects in a military experiment.)