A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the darker, more violent sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes, in which the apes take arms against a post-super-virus group of human survivors. Dawn has a higher body count than Rise (with a couple of particularly upsetting deaths), and the violence is more militant/weapons-based than the first film's animal abuse and torture. There's also a bit more language ("s--t," "a--hole," one "f--king") and drinking, but overall the film's jump-worthy moments and intense action sequences make this a thrilling post-apocalyptic movie for both teens and parents. The opposing takes on peace versus war may even spark interesting conversations about history, politics, and war.
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What's the story?
Ten years after the culminating events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the simian flu has spread across the globe, killing the majority of the human population and plunging the world into a new dark age of chaos in DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. But back in San Francisco, Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his super-smart ape pals have flourished, creating a society in which all apes work and live together, abiding by rules that prohibit them from killing each other. Caesar is the alpha male, so when a group of humans led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and a trigger-happy Carver (Kirk Acevedo) stumbles upon the ape sanctuary while looking for a dam, it's Caesar who yells "Go!" at the bewildered human survivors. Realizing that the dam is their only hope to regain power to the survivors' colony, Malcolm returns to ask the apes' permission to do his research. Koba (Toby Kebbell), who was once a tortured lab chimp, advises Caesar against trusting the humans, but Caesar allows Malcolm's crew to work ... until tragic circumstances lead to an all-out war between the apes and the humans.
Is it any good?
This movie will surprise viewers with its depth and relevance to a world in which co-existence between humans is beginning to look every bit as difficult as harmony between the humans and the apes. The decade between the events in Rise and the action in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has decimated humanity but helped the apes evolve into a well-organized community of united chimpanzees, orangutans (wise Maurice is back as the community's teacher), gorillas, and other apes. By focusing on the apes at the beginning and the end, director Matt Reeves makes it clear where society is heading ... and who has the more interesting story lines. This installment's most compelling characters are definitely the apes, particularly the mistrustful Koba -- who not only refuses to trust humans but is willing to lie, cheat, and steal to start a war with the neighboring survivors' colony -- and Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston), Caesar's oldest son, who's torn between listening to his thoughtful father and the more vocally militant Koba. Caesar and Koba are fascinating foils, and their relationship is so much more heartbreaking than their human counterparts Malcolm and Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), who thinks the apes are just "dumb animals."
In the first movie, Caesar related to Will (James Franco) as a son. But in the sequel, he and Malcolm are equals -- both fathers trying to do what's best for their sons and their communities. Their friendship doesn't have as tearful an emotional pull as the father-son dynamic, but it's still poignant to see two voices of reason standing against hate. It's too bad there isn't more for Keri Russell or Kodi Smit-McPhee to do as Malcolm's partner and son; they -- along with some of the original apes, like Maurice and Rocket -- don't have a lot of lines. Still, Dawn is ultimately a dark and violent drama with more substance than anyone would expect from a franchise sequel. The movie's visuals are unforgettable (apes on horses! apes with guns a la Arnold Schwarzenegger!), and the action is occasionally disturbing (a couple of the kills are particularly upsetting).
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how violent Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is compared to the first movie. How is it different? What's harder to watch -- the weapons-based violence in this sequel or the animal abuse in the first movie?
What's so compelling about post-apocalyptic stories? Why are viewers drawn to humans struggling for survival?
Animals are usually depicted as humans' friends or pets, but what do these apes want -- to rule over humans or to just live free and apart from them?
Discuss how Caesar's and Koba's approaches to ape-human relations differ. Are there real-life comparisons you can make to their differing world views?
- In theaters: July 11, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: December 2, 2014
- Cast: Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Judy Greer, Andy Serkis
- Director: Matt Reeves
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Run time: 101 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief strong language
For kids who love sci-fi and action
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.