This one follows a similar path, though the arc of the film is a little tougher to follow. Not a bad thing, as this has plenty to get you through it. The effects in this thing are absolutely stunning; just the way the apes move and interact with their environment is masterful, and I love how Caesar and the rest of the apes are distinguishable from one another. It gives them an identity all their own and helps to flesh out this civilization and give it character. Caesar, the leader of the apes, is an emotional character and really gets you invested in the questions that the film is raising about prejudice and complacency by making his and Malcolm's relationship bloom steadily and naturally.
Caesar's character is given good foils/antagonists in the forms of Koba and the human leader Dreyfus. Both are good characters as well because they represent extremes of leadership and lawfulness. Koba fits quite comfortably as an antagonist through and through, but Dreyfus, however villainous the screenplay may want to make his character, is not actually a villain; his motivations and actions are very clearly built upon the idea that what he's doing is for the betterment of mankind's survival, and you really get the sense that he's a good guy with in an impossible situation. His character was quite good.
The tone of this piece is much darker, and the lighting, score, cinematography, and pace all make sure that we know it. One moment that stuck out to me was when Malcolm's kid was bonding with an ape and getting across rudimentary reading, and then the scene cuts immediately to two humans shooting guns at targets. It just had this great visual and audio starkness to it that really grabbed me. I also like this because Apes is not an action flick; it's a slow buildup of suspension and tenseness that leaves you just as engross two hours in as you were at the movie's start, and what action is in here fuels the tone and tension and is in itself riveting and fascinating to watch. Once again, the apes are remarkably unique in their movements and fighting styles, being more about containment and human targeting than about all-out destruction. I also liked that there was friction even as Koba took command. This wasn't just Caesar against the whole pack; this was the pack going along with Koba because of manipulation and anger and when Caesar returns, the apes aren't really which side they should choose. It made for a better story and once again fleshed out the simian cast remarkably.
This is science fiction at its best, tackling real-world issues and fusing that with the emotional weight needed to carry you through to the end. It has wonderful effects, superb cinematography and directing, and it builds on its predecessor in a great way! Everything is here to make a solid sequel and it does so and manages to come out as a fantastic piece of science fiction film! Good job, Apes!