Story

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes opens with a flashback to the end of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. There is also news footage of the world in chaos after a human-made simian flu virus wipes out most of the world’s human population.

Ten years later Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his band of genetically modified super apes have multiplied into hundreds. They have created an ape city where they live together in a self-governed and harmonious society. The apes have had no contact with humans since their escape into the wilderness, but this changes when a small group of humans, led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke), comes across the apes while searching for an abandoned hydroelectric dam.

Malcolm and his team belong to a colony of human survivors in the ruins of San Francisco. They want to reactivate the hydroelectric dam to supply the colony with power. When a trigger-happy human shoots one of Caesar’s apes, Caesar orders the humans to leave. To make sure the humans understand, Caesar marches an army of mounted apes to San Francisco, giving the humans an ultimatum – stay away from ape territory or there will be war.

Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), the leader of the colonists, sends Malcolm and some other humans to compromise with Caesar. But there is an ape, Koba (Toby Kebbell), who was tortured and experimented on by humans. He wants his revenge and plots to overthrow Caesar. This results in Caesar’s near-death and an all-out war between the apes and humans.

Themes

Human extinction; viral plagues; experiments on animals

Violence

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes contains action violence, including violence against animals and destruction of property. For example:

  • Apes run through a forest chasing a herd of elks. One ape is about to stab a fallen elk when a massive grizzly bear charges out of the forest and attacks the ape, leaving him with bloody claw slashes across his torso and upper arm. Several apes attack the bear, which is eventually speared.
  • While walking through a forest a man stumbles upon two large apes. He shoots one of the apes in the shoulder. The ape falls to the ground with blood on his shoulder, and another ape signs that the humans shot his son. The man is suddenly surrounded by dozens of threatening apes and the leader of the apes roars at the man, telling him to go.
  • Hundreds of apes, many mounted on horses, march into the ruins of a city occupied by human colonists and deliver an ultimatum – ‘Do not come into our country or we will go to war’. Later a human says, ‘They’re animals, they’re not men! We’re going to kill every last one of them!’
  • Several apes drag a man along the ground then push his face into the ground.
  • An ape stands over a man lying on the ground, holding a shotgun above his head as if he is about to smash it down on the man’s head. The ape changes his mind and throws the gun into a lake.
  • An ape deliberately sets fire to a wooden ape city, and the fire spreads to engulf the entire city. The same ape shoots a second ape, who falls from a tree on to the ground. He is later seen alive but with a bloody bullet wound to his chest.
  • While standing in front of two men an ape picks up a gun and begins to play with it. The ape turns the gun on the two men and shoots them in cold blood. There is a sinister smile on the ape’s face after he shoots the men.
  • Two scenes show prolonged fights between two apes during which they brutally pummel each other in the head and body and slam each other’s heads into the ground. One fight takes place on a bridge tower, and the two apes crash through steel girders as they attack each other. One ape is left hanging by one arm from a steel girder. The other ape grabs hold of the hanging ape’s hand and then deliberately lets go. The ape falls to his death, smashing through several steel girders.
  • In a prolonged chaotic and destructive battle scene, hundreds of apes wielding automatic rifles ride into a human town and attack the humans. The humans retaliate with automatic weapons and grenade launchers. Gunfire kills many apes, horses and humans. Explosions erupt in all directions, causing massive property damage. Apes drag a screaming man from beneath a car and beat him to death. The scene contains some images of blood and gore, including a dead man with a blood-covered face.
  • Apes herd humans into a stockade. One man is dragged by his foot while a woman is carried slung over the shoulder of an ape.

Content that may disturb children

Under 5

In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under five years. For example:

  • The apes are likely to be scary for this age group. They are human-sized and walk upright with white war paint on their faces and torsos. Many of them are menacing, and some have large fang-like teeth that show when they roar.
  • Koba has scars on his face and body and one ugly blind eye. He tells another ape that his scars are the result of being tortured and experimented on by humans. 

From 5-8

In addition to the violent scenes and scary visual images mentioned above, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has some scenes that could scare or disturb children in this age group.

For example, at the beginning of the movie, we’re told that a simian flu virus was responsible for killing 50 million humans. Only one in 500 people survived. There are images of a sick feverish human. We hear that children were left without parents.

From 8-13

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the violent and disturbing scenes mentioned above. 

Over 13

Younger children in this age group might also be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above. 

Sexual references

None of concern 

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes shows some use of substances. For example:

  • A man smokes a cigarette in a couple of scenes.
  • Two men drink whisky and one says, ‘This is the good stuff’. They offer the whisky to an ape, who drinks it from the bottle and then spits it out. 

Nudity and sexual activity

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes shows some nudity and sexual activity. For example:

  • A man and women kiss briefly in a couple of scenes.
  • A couple of scenes show a male and female ape hugging each other.
  • A female ape gives birth – we see the newborn ape but not the actual birth. 

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes:

  • older electronic devices including an iPad and Canon video camera
  • Johnny Walker whisky. 

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Ideas to discuss with your children

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is darker and more intense than Rise of the Planet of the Apes, its prequel. There is more violence, particularly gun violence. Character development is more detailed, particularly for the apes.

The movie is thought-provoking and disturbing in parts, with some violent and scary scenes that make it unsuitable for children under 13 years. Parental guidance could be helpful for slightly older children who are allowed to see the movie.

The main messages from this movie are about tolerance and acceptance of difference, with an emphasis on the fundamental similarities between humans and apes. You could talk with your children about the implications of this message for our relationships with primates.

You could also talk about how a single bad experience can affect an individual’s entire life (whether they’re human or animal), leaving emotional and physical scars. For example, Koba’s desire for revenge comes from being experimented on by humans and leads to his ultimate destruction.