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Here is my take on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Please feel free to weigh in with your thoughts — pros, cons, yays, nays, new series rankings, whatever — in the comments section. In other words: have at it, nerds.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Rupert Wyatt’s smart and involving revival of the long-dormant Planet of the Apes franchise, ended on such a note of triumph that it was easy for both casual and committed fans the series to forget how uncharacteristic this was for an Apes movie. Rise had its moments of sadness and loss, of course, both human and animal, and its end-credit map of how simian flu spread across the globe offered foreboding for the next chapter. But its climactic sequences of Apes running wild approximated a bigger, more fun version of the violent outbreak that closed Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, its closest relative in the previous series. The apes weren’t out to kill all humans; they just caused some beautifully shot mayhem in the name of ape freedom. Their endgame was a forest settlement to call their own; the destruction (mostly non-lethal) was just collateral damage.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes keeps the collateral damage, loses the triumph — which makes it a clear successor to the original films.