When it was announced that a Planet of the Apes reboot called Rise of the Planet of the Apes was going to be released in 2011, movie fans all over the world were instantly up in arms. The reason the project was so unwelcome was equal parts how beloved the original film from 1968 was and how reviled the first attempt to reboot the franchise in 2001 was. Did we really need another reboot when people still happily watched the original film and the first attempt at a new franchise had become all but forgotten over time? It didn’t seem like it, but a funny thing happened when Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes turned out to be a lot better than anyone anticipated—suddenly there was desire for a sequel. After it was announced that Wyatt wouldn’t be returning for the next film, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, we were all right back where we started though—dreading another Planet of the Apes movie. Well, now a funny thing has happened again. Matt Reeves (Let Me In) took over the Dawn directing duties from Wyatt, and he’s made a Planet of the Apes movie that’s even better than Rise was. What a world we live in.
The film opens with an artful montage sequence that fills us in on all of the things that have taken place in the years between the events of Rise and where we are now. The basic gist of it is that most of the human population has been killed off by the nasty virus that was created in the first film, governments have collapsed, and the only survivors are people who were genetically immune to the disease and who now live in isolated communities. On the other end of the spectrum, Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his ape friends have been thriving in the redwood forests north of San Francisco. Their numbers have swelled, they’ve gotten more educated, more organized, and they even live in a giant treehouse village that’s pretty much the coolest thing this side of the Swiss Family Robinson. Conflict bubbles up when the last surviving members of the San Francisco population attempt to restore power to what’s left of their city by reactivating a dam that exists adjacent to the ape community. Both parties come face to face, tempers flare, and the question of whether the two species can coexist or if war between them is inevitable get raised.