A primate with a scarred face rides a horse through a city in ruins. He is firing two machine guns at once. The ape is shrouded in fire, his face is full of anger, malice, and sheer terror. This image, while it may sound absurd (and I suppose it is in a way), is one of the scariest and most real things I've seen on the movie screen this year. It is all of humanity's fears realized. It is the apocalypse personified. It is, in my opinion, possibly the most honest and realistic portrayal of what the end of the world would be like ever displayed on film. "Whit, this is a movie about talking apes who fight people. How is this honest?" Let me backtrack here. Obviously if the world did end there would not be apes on horses with guns riding through the once great ruins of human civilization. What I meant, is that in the event of the apocalypse, things would be absolutely insane. There wouldn't be time for heroes, love, and complex human interactions. Movies love all these things, as do I. Yet, in the event of the end of the world, there wouldn't be these things. In times of disaster, the only thing we have time for is war. Awful, bloody, and horrible war. There are no winners. There are no good guys! Everyone is fighting for the same thing: the right to stay alive. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the newest film in the seemingly endless slew of Apes films, understands this and uses it to its advantage. And it sure uses it well. Taken from a very detached and ignorant perspective, this picture is simply about a bunch of monkeys fighting human survivors in the future. The thing is that it's so much more than that. In this future, almost all of humanity has been wiped out by a virus of proportions similar to the disease in Stephen King's novel The Stand. A small community of survivors, led by a man named Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), are struggling to hold on to past society. Their power is about to go out if they're not able to get the dam running. The problem is that the dam is placed in the same area where the hyper intelligent apes community, led by Caesar (Andy Serkis), have settled. The humans must learn to work with these apes to get this dam working. Except most humans are stupid, stubborn, and prone to violence. Unfortunately, most apes are the same way. That's probably what I liked most about this film. It didn't paint the apes as kindly geniuses, nor did it make humans out to be heroes or must always prevail. Both the humans and their primate cousins are warlike in nature, and still have a lot to learn. With the end of the world brings chaos, humans are far from immune to chaos. The same goes for uber smart apes. The film that came before this, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, was surprisingly good. It had a touching human story and a lot to say about the testing of animals and the nature of science itself. The end battle on the Golden Gate Bridge was also quite cool. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ups the ante on the last film, and succeeds on all counts. It's grander in scale and filled with much more action, but it never loses sight of its profound messages or deep emotion. It's more exciting and thrilling in the case of its action sequences yet, it never devolves into a mindless explosions fest. The dialogue is also better than the first film. The only thing Rise did better than Dawn was have better written human characters, but I'm wary to even complain about that. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes isn't about the humans, nor is it about the apes. It's about the epic struggle for survival. It's about horrific chaos. Most of all, it's about how we're often not who we think we are. In the beginning of the film, the apes are shown living peacefully together. They've created a code of conduct (Ape Shall Not Kill Ape and that sort of thing). Although soon it is realized that not all apes are good. In fact, the apes are just like us humans at many times. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is what The Dark Knight was to Batman Begins. An excellent sequel that's darker and even better than it's already great predecessor. It's one of the best blockbusters I've seen in a long time and it makes me feel hope for the film industry. I do think we are in a new golden age of movies. The independent film circuit seems to be churning out classics all the time. Like The Grand Budapest Hotel and Under the Skin for example. While we do have some truly awful big budget blockbuster films being released (Transformers 4, The Amazing Spider-Man 2), we seem to have predominately great and smart mainstream films being released. Like The Lego Movie, Edge of Tomorrow, and this. Cinemagoers: have hope! Anyway, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was pretty terrific and I urge you to see it. It's far from perfect, but it's still damn good. I give it 4.3 out of 5 stars.