‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ is a riveting thriller: 3.5 stars

It’s reassuring to know that humans aren’t the only species that can’t stop fighting.

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” the follow-up to the 2011 reboot “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” is set a decade after the simian virus decimated the vast majority of the humans.

The intelligent apes are building their community, lead by Caesar (a motion-captured CGI Andy Serkis), while the humans are trying to rebuild theirs.

Electricity is essential, and a plan is enacted to get a dam with a hydroelectric generator working again. The problem is, the dam is on ape territory.

Apes don’t trust humans, humans are scared of apes, and even internally the groups are fighting. It’s a classic recipe for disaster — and for an action film.

I confess to not being well versed in the “Planet of the Apes” franchise. I hadn’t seen “Rise” or any of the originals. I did see the Tim Burton film from 2001 (and the less said about that film, the better).

So basically, going in, all I knew was that there are smart apes and, from what I heard, they’re “Damned and dirty.”

And I’ll be damned if “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” isn’t a riveting thriller. But it is also far better than it has any right to be. Half the film’s cast are CGI apes and the apes’ dialogue is mostly subtitled sign language. There’s no big star power here to keep your eyes glued to the screen.

But your eyes will be glued to this genre treat (and not just because you’re reading the subtitles). This is a tense, well constructed action film that moves fluidly with purpose through its 130-minute runtime.

The acting is high quality all around, but it’s really the apes that shine here. Serkis, as Caesar, again excels at the tough task of acting through technology.

The other star here is the production design. This is a San Francisco that is ravaged and overgrown. The apes are sweaty with matted fur. You’d have to imagine that if the ape’s weapons don’t kill you, their stench would.

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