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'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' shines

The movie "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" is a remarkable follow-up to 2011's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." Most sequels these days are rehashes of the same story told in a louder and more obnoxious way. "Dawn," on the other hand, evolves: It builds on its predecessor and adapts to build a life of its own.

I've really enjoyed this new take on the "Planet of the Apes" franchise. In many ways, it shares some commonalities with the latest installment of "Batman" films. The world is brought to life in spectacular detail and yet resonates on a deeper emotional level. In cinema, seeing often isn't enough to constitute believing. Sure, the apes look more believable than the campy rubber masks of the originals; however, having higher-resolution apes only would make a more expensive mess if not handled properly. Andy Serkis (famous for his motion capture performances for digital characters such as Gollum and King Kong) delivers a consistently jaw-dropping performance as the ape leader Caesar. That spellbinding acting blended with state-of-the-art animation makes for a digital character that captivates hearts and minds, as well as eyes.

"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" performs well as the middle chapter of a trilogy. The stakes are high, but the structure of the plot is relatively simple. It's through the emotional journey our characters take that film's true power is unearthed.

This movie is one of the best examples in recent memory of where exactly most big budget blockbusters go wrong. Love, hate, threat, fear, loyalty -- these are all such primordial concepts that are recognized through details. A villain who has to tell you they're the villain is no villain at all. On the other hand, a hero who can be identified from posture and eye movement alone is what audiences yearn for. These core emotions are inalienable truths of life; and not specifically human life, but life in general. When placed in the hands of skilled craftsmen, such as those who built "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," they are pound-for-pound the building blocks of great cinema.

Someone should ask notoriously loud and obnoxious director Michael Bay: Which is more powerful -- splitting a massive boulder or splitting an atom? The power is in the same details, and when you get them right, explosive things happen.

* 5 of 6

James Gerstner