Ten years after the Simian Flu global pandemic, the human population of Earth is decimated and civilization has collapsed. The apes, led by Caesar (Andy Serkis) have been endowed with enhanced intelligence and are living in the Muir Woods near San Francisco. A group of humans, led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke) intrude into the apes’ territory, looking for a hydro-electric dam to restore power to the city. Caesar’s son Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston) and his friend Ash (Doc Shaw) confront them and Ash is injured by a man named Carver (Kirk Acevedo). Malcolm manages to cool down the situation and Caesar orders the humans to leave. But Koba (Toby Kebbell), a deeply scarred Bonobo ape with a blind hatred for humans after his torture by scientists, talks Caesar into presenting his huge army to the humans.
Malcolm convinces his fellow leader Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) to let him negotiate with the apes. Caesar tells him his people can work on the dam if they turn in their guns. When Malcolm, his nurse wife Ellie (Keri Russell), and his son Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee) work there, they bond with the apes. Carver’s gun is found and he is sent away, but Ellie treats Caesar’s ailing wife Cornelia (Judy Greer).
Dreyfus arms his community at the Fort Point Armory. Koba discovers this and confronts Caesar, who beats him for accusing Caesar of loving humans more than apes. Koba steals an assault rifle and kills two guards, then Carver. He sets fire to the apes’ home, shoots Caesar, and blames the humans. He leads an army into San Francisco and assaults the human settlement. Ash refuses to kill humans as it is against Caesar’s teachings, and Koba throws him to his death. Then he imprisons Maurice (Karin Konoval), Luca (Scott Lang), and Rocket (Terry Notaro), Caesar’s loyalists.
Malcolm’s family finds the injured Caesar and take him to San Francisco. Malcolm sneaks into the ape settlement for supplies, and Blue Eyes returns with him. Caesar tells him it was Koba, not the humans, who shot him. Blue Eyes frees the prisoners and they return to San Francisco, where the restoration of electricity allows Dreyfus and his men to call for troops from a military base. Caesar and Koba battle at the top of the tower, while Dreyfus detonates C-4 charges. When apes come to Caesar’s aid, Koba shoots at them, and Caesar throws him to his death. Malcolm and Caesar are friends, but the war between men and apes has begun. Malcolm and his family leave and all the apes kneel before Caesar.
The film was directed by Matt Reeves and written by Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver. It takes place ten years after Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It was released to highly positive reviews and nominated for eight Saturn Awards and the Oscar for Best Visual Effects. It was a box-office hit, is considered one of those rare things—a sequel better than the original-- and it made the most money of the three films. It was shot mostly on Vancouver Island as a match to the California Redwood Forest of the first film. Weta Digital created apes, elk, a bear, and horses.
The orangutan named Maurice is named for Maurice Evans, who played Doctor Zaius in the original Planet of the Apes. The scheming Koba is called by Joseph Stalin’s nickname. He is a bonobo, though they are the least aggressive of the apes, but he was twisted by human experimentation. When Koba and Caesar confront each other, they show real chimpanzee behavior. Judy Greer, who played Cornelia, is a fan of the original movie and her husband even more so. They had chimps atop their wedding cake. Caesar and Koba, friends who drift apart because of the latter’s hatred of humans, could be compared to Professor Xavier and Magneto.