Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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Not recommended under 13; parental guidance recommended 13-15 due to violent and disturbing scenes

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  • a review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 15 July 2014.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 not recommended due to violent and disturbing scenes
Children aged 13 to 15 Parental guidance recommended due to violent and disturbing scenes
Children aged 15 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Violence and infrequent coarse language
Length: 131 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

The film opens with a flashback to the end of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. We also see news footage of a world in chaos after an outbreak of a man-made simian flu virus wipes out most of the world’s human population.

Ten years later we find that Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his band of genetically modified super apes have multiplied into hundreds and 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 all that changes when a small group of humans led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke) come across the apes while searching for an abandoned hydroelectric dam. Malcolm and his team belong to a group of human survivors who have established a colony in the ruins of San Francisco and 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 in to San Francisco giving the humans an ultimatum - stay away from the apes’ territory or Caesar will declare war on the humans.

Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) the leader of the Colonists sends Malcolm and small group of humans to try and compromise with Caesar. Unfortunately, Koba (Toby Kebbell), an ape who was tortured and experimented on by humans, wants his revenge and plots to overthrow Caesar. This results in the near death of Caesar and an all-out war between the apes and humans.         


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Human extinction; viral plagues; experiments on animals

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

The film contains action violence, including violence against animals and destruction of property. Examples include:

  • Apes run through a forest chasing a herd of elks. One of the apes is about to stab an elk which has been brought down 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 then attack the bear which is eventually speared.
  • While walking through a forest a man stumbles upon two large apes.  Out of fear, the man pulls out a handgun and 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 we hear a human say “They’re animals, they’re not men! We’re going to kill every last one of them!”
  • In one scene we see several apes dragging a man along then ground then pushing 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, but the ape changes his mind and throws the gun into a lake.  
  • An ape deliberately sets fire to a wooden ape city, the fire spreading to engulf the entire city in flames. We then see the same ape shoot 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.
  • In one scene an ape while standing in front of two men picks up a gun and begins to play with the gun as if a toy, but the ape turns the gun on the two men and shoots them in cold blood; we see a sinister smile on the ape’s face after he shoots the two men.
  • Two scenes depict prolonged and brutal 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 with the two apes crashing through steel girders as they attack each other. At one point one of the apes is left hanging by one arm from a steel girder. A second ape grabs hold of the hanging ape’s hand, but he deliberately lets go and we see the ape fall to his death, smashing through several steel girders.
  • In a prolonged battle scene depicting chaos and destruction hundreds of apes wielding automatic rifles ride into a human town and attack the humans who retaliate with automatic weapons and grenade launchers. Many apes, horses and humans are killed by gunfire and 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.   

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

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

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • At the beginning of the film we hear that a Simian flu virus was responsible for killing fifty million humans with only one in five hundred people surviving the virus. We see images of a sick feverish human and hear that children were left without parents.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

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

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

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

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

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

Sexual references

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • A man and women are depicted kissing briefly in a couple of scenes.
  • A couple of scenes depict a male and female ape hugging each other.
  • A female ape gives birth - we do not see the actual birth but see the new born ape

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • A couple of scenes depict a man smoking a cigarette.
  • One scene depicts two men drinking whisky and we hear one of the men say, “This is the good stuff.” They offer the bottle to an ape who drinks whisky from the bottle and then spits it out. 

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Jesus Christ; arse; hell; bullshit; shit; dirty ape; ugly son of a bitch; out of your fucking mind.”

In a nutshell

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is darker and more intense than the previous film in the series, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. There is more violence, particularly gun violence, and character development is more in-depth, particularly for the apes. The film is thought-provoking and disturbing in parts, with some violent and scary scenes which make it unsuitable for children under 13, while parent guidance could be helpful for slightly older children who are allowed to see the film.    

The main messages from this movie centre around tolerance and acceptance of difference, with an emphasis on the fundamental similarities between humans and apes. Parents may wish to discuss the implications of this message for our relationships with primates.

Parents may also like to discuss how a single bad experience can affect an individual’s entire life (whether they are human or animal) leaving them emotionally and physically scarred. The ape Koba’s vengeful nature resulted from being experimented on by humans and leads to his ultimate destruction.