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Movie Review

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief strong language.

Reviewed by: Raphael Vera

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults Teens
Sci-Fi Action Adventure War Thriller Drama Sequel
2 hr. 10 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
July 11, 2014 (wide—3,800+ theaters)
DVD: December 2, 2014
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Relevant Issues
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Someone in the film says that fear turns people into followers.

the danger and evil of being a warmonger

What is the Biblical perspective on war? Answer

apes in the Bible

Top choice for accurate, in-depth information on Creation/Evolution. The SuperLibrary is provided by a top team of experts from various respected creationist organizations who answer your questions on a wide variety of topics. Multilingual.


“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-45)

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The Decalogue

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Featuring: Andy SerkisCaesar
Jason Clarke … Malcolm
Gary OldmanDreyfus
Keri RussellEllie
Toby Kebbell … Koba
Kodi Smit-McPhee … Alexander
Kirk Acevedo … Carver
Nick Thurston … Blue Eyes
Terry Notary … Rocket
Karin Konoval … Maurice
Judy GreerCornelia
more »
Director: Matt Reeves
Producer: Chernin Entertainment
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Prequel: “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (2011)

In “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (2011) an experimental drug meant to repair and improve brain functions does just that and more to a newly born chimpanzee named Caesar who, after he reaches adulthood, uses it to alter his fellow apes in order to escape from the humans and start their own community. The film ends as that humanitarian vaccine mutates into a deadly virus that sweeps the globe threatening to wipe mankind off the face of the Earth.

2014’s “Dawn of The Planet of the Apes” is the sequel that picks up ten (10) years in the future with Caesar leading his intelligent apes peacefully and apart from the humans in the forest in the Bay area. Meanwhile, the virus has already taken the lives of untold billions of humans, as only 1-in-500 have proved genetically resistant to it. Included among the survivors in the city are Malcolm (Jason Clarke), Ellie (Keri Russell) a former nurse for the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and his son Alex (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Part of a survivors camp led by a man named Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), it is their job to see if they can make a former hydroelectric dam operational—a dam that happens to be right in Caesar’s territory.

Can apes and humans cooperate to survive on a devastated Earth? Many survivors blame the apes for the killer virus, while a few, like Ellie, know the truth, and it’s Malcolm’s family that sets out to win Caesar’s trust. Unfortunately, just as there are doubters on the human side, there are many apes, such as Koba (Toby Kebbell) who feel that only war can address the human problem.

“Dawn of The Planet of The Apes” is a surprisingly contemplative film choosing to focus almost entirely on Caesar, his family and the brotherhood of apes that he is trying to foster, and much less on the humans and their plight. By no means is this a futuristic sci-fi action series so much as a film that conveys an almost documentary feel; as though we were watching true-to-life events that happened to a great leader a very long time ago. That is not to say the film is not without its portion of action, which brings us to two areas to be wary of.

Objectionable Content

Violence: Heavy. The film begins with a video montage of TV broadcasts that show not only the incredible death toll from the disease but the ensuing panic, burning of bodies, fires and violence arising from the near extinction of the human race. The apes are seen hunting and killing game. A bear attacks and slashes one of the hunters before being killed by a spear. The human’s primary defenses are the weapons they have secured from an armory and are later used to shoot and kill the apes and vice versa. Some of the killings that are most up-close are done just out of sight, but the impact is strong, just the same. Both sides take casualties by gunfire, explosions and being crushed by debris, or, in one case, thrown down to their death. Mostly bloodless for the humans, the apes injured or hurt in battle do show blood and the scars of battle appear still fresh.

Language: Moderate. The Lord’s name is taken in vain twice, “Hell” is used 3 times, “as_” (1), “a__h__” (3), “sh__” or its variant “BS” combined (7), “SOB” (3), and the “F” word is used only once in order to keep the film at PG-13. While not as pervasive as other PG-13 films, the language is sufficient to keep this from being family-friendly.

Sex/Nudity: Minor (a brief, heterosexual kiss).


Four themes with Christian overtones stood out for me in this film.

First, similar to the fifth and final movie from the original “Planet of the Apes” series, Caesar has established one law, beyond himself, that he expects the apes to follow, if they are to have peace: “Ape not kill ape.” Pity the modern producers of this version chose to change it from the original’s “Ape shall never kill ape,” because that more closely resembled the commandment as given to Moses found in Exodus 20:13, “Thou shall not murder,” though the sentiment remains the same.

Second, there is a scene with Koba setting fire to the ape village in order to rally the apes to war with the humans. This is not unlike how the Roman emperor Nero blamed Christians for the burning of Rome or when Hitler blamed Germany’s problems on the Jews in order to justify genocide. Christians and our Hebrew brethren continue to be persecuted today, as this mindset is more pervasive than ever before, and we must stand together in love for God himself said,

“I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the Earth shall be blessed.” —Genesis 12:3

Third, that self-same power hungry ape Koba cannot understand why Caesar believes in the humans and publicly accuses him when he says, “Caesar loves humans more than his own son.” Yet, this is exactly what our Lord Jesus himself told us to do, and the Word of God throughout tells us how to treat others.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” —Matthew 5:43-45

The fourth theme I saw as the most analogous to our place as God’s children involved an application of the ape law itself when someone questioned, by their actions, if this meant they are all “brothers” because of their skin or must there be something more? Jesus, as the living Word of God, proclaimed himself the answer to this question in the Gospel of John:

A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” “Who are my mother and brothers? he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” —Mark 3:31-35

I was a big fan of the original series and even went “Ape for a Day,” seeing all five in the theater when my older sister took me, and this latest entry bears more than a passing resemblance to the final one, “Battle for the Planet of the Apes.”

That being said, “Dawn,” while a better film in many respects, most notably the acting and special effects which are top-notch, follows an almost tiresome narrative that is, quite simply, hampered by the director taking the subject too seriously. The human colony is almost an afterthought compared to the attention given to the apes. Additionally, having the apes sign language almost exclusively throughout may have been realistic, in a sci-fi context, but it lessened the dramatic impact and made the apes that much less relatable.

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” delivers an interesting new chapter in the revived Ape franchise, but I feel it fell short of the promise aptly delivered by it’s well made predecessor.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Minor

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” equals its predecessor in every respect. It combines superb storytelling and amazing CGI/ special effects to deliver a thoughtful narrative rife with important questions for our time. We find, in its central theme, a political commentary that challenges our paradigms and principles as Americans—and as Christians.

Though the film is violent, it is ultimately a condemnation of violence and especially war. In the opening scenes, we are reminded of the motto: apes alone are weak; together, apes are strong. Caesar illustrated this idea in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” by breaking a single stick and then gathering many together to form a “fasces”. The fasces—a bundle of rods attached to a small ax -signifies the strength of a collective society united under a strong leader. The fasces was the symbol of Rome (thus the namesake of Caesar). Today, the same symbol decorates many icons of our own government. With the rise and fall of fascist governments in the 20th century, fascism has become an elusive philosophy on which there is plenty of disagreement. For the sake of clarity, I am referring to fascism in its simplest definition and the one illustrated by the fasces. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Lara, age 41 (USA)
Positive—Having seen the first one I naturally wanted to see this one since its a reboot of the original series (not counting those ones from the 2000s). The first was amazing to me and pulled me in. It touched your heart. This one blew my mind. Not only are the graphics amazing, but the emotion portrayed by the actors who play them (CGI) makes you forget at times these aren’t real primates (chimps, apes… etc.). The movie made me cry because it did a great job with emotional scenes. While there is no doubt some violence, most of it is not major really, at least not compared to R movie. Some bullet wounds, people being beat up… etc. And the swearing was moderate, although I honestly was so enthralled in the movie I may have not noticed. And there was no talk of evolution or things you would expect to hear. Although the fact these are apes with “souls” does make it sound like we are the same as them. But the message is never really said so that was great to me.

The story was incredible although I heard a few times people saying in the audience to someone “Wait, which one is that?” referring to the different named chimps since some look the same in quick action scenes. Hardcore fans of the series probably know whos who based on the old movies. I’d say this is an ok movie for teens. Although I’d not recommend it for kids mainly because violence aside, the chimps when fighting might scare them and scar them if they seen one at a zoo. Is there biblical messages in this story? Maybe if you looked hard you could find some small things. Overall it did have good morals. If you want to know the morals then look below, I will be posting spoilers. Well the movie does show war shouldn’t be an option because nothing good comes from either side who wins or loses. It shows anger/bitterness (as seen by some on each side) can make things worse and is destructive. It also shows not everyone is the same. People are different and we should not judge based on someone else.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Matt S, age 32 (USA)
Neutral—I would go see this film twice in order to take my children to it except for the use of the f-word. I simply will not subject my children to hearing movies with useless vocabulary words. The same sentiment could have been displayed without the word. Asking a non-Christian production company to filter that kind of stuff is senseless and a waste of time based on moral grounds, but being they are driven by money and greed one would think they could figure out that basic math concept. People that could care less about language are simply that. They don’t care if it is in there or not but we who strive for higher standards and respect for others will not support (or shouldn't) such things. The movie was incredibly well done, story wise, and I like that they have chosen to make the apes talk NOT via evolution, as in the original series, but by a medically driven mistake (kinda along the lines of a zombie thing but much more believable.)

If you are reading Hollywood, you just lost out on 8 ticket sales, two of which would be repeat tickets. Times that by several thousand just like me and you might see the potential that you actually could make if you just would have listened to that public school math teacher I am sure you had.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Dow, age 47 (USA)
Neutral—While the CGI and characterization was good, and the plot twists, there was just too much anger. It nearly seemed constant, especially with the apes. And yet, the apes never used profanity. I am not judging, but how does it flow from some of us like a fountain. We do not speak like that as children. Does it add to the dramatization of a film? How much is enough? I do not make movies, so I don’t know. I only wish there was less.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Jeff, age 57 (USA)
Comments from young people
Positive—This is one of the best films of the year. The CGI was fantastic. Andy Serkis was fantastic as Cesar. This film goes in different directions that this film goes. It has some nods from “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and the original “Planet of the Apes.” The first half of the film had little violence. The supporting cast was okay, but the real stars are the motion capture actors who played the apes (Maurice, Ash, Rocket, etc.). I am excited for the next one and luckily the director of this movie is already signed up for the next one.

Just one question. Why did the main reviewer have only 3 and a half stars instead of 5! Other than that, the main reviewer did a good job. You need to see this movie so that many more can happen. It is a good film for 12 years old and up.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Tyty, age 15 (USA)

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