Release Date: 7/11/2014
Dir. Matt Reeves
Starring: Andy Serkis (Ceasar), Jason Clarke (Malcolm), Keri Russell (Ellie), Gary Oldman (Dreyfus), Toby Kebbell (Koba), Nick Thurston (Blue Eyes), Kodi Smit-McPhee (Alexander), Kirk Acevedo (Carver), Karin Konoval (Maurice)
It is rare now that when a film’s final credits begin to roll, the audience claps. That’s exactly what happened as I left the theatre from my screening of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and I can fully understand why. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes presented a grim post-apocalyptic world in which a final war between human and ape was brewing. There was a glorious sense of isolation with the film as nearly everyone was localised in the San Francisco area. If you are looking for an exciting afternoon, or some introspection as to what it means to be human(though this film makes me question the phrase), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a great choice. The film lives up to the lofty standards and brings the franchise back to a place that will both entertain and make you think.
Little time is wasted showing how far the apes have come since the momentous day in San Francisco before the apes disappeared. In the ten years since then, the apes have established a way of life. We see the these apes are just living their lives attempting to enjoy themselves and their current structure. We even see that Caesar’s family has just expanded to include a new son. However, the peace is short lived when they are unwittingly attacked. After sparing the human intruders, and themselves learning that the humans hadn’t quite wiped themselves out, Ceasar ordered some of the apes to follow the humans back. Their information proves that the humans are vast in number and could be dangerous. He opts to leave the humans a message by way of bringing in an army of apes equipped with spears as a warning. Humans are to stay in their home, the apes will stick to their home, and all will be peachy.
Unfortunately, we learn from our human protagonist, Malcolm, that staying in the city isn’t really a proper option. The humans are running out of power and the last time that happened it was pure chaos. They need to get to the dam in ape territory and get it working again. Dreyfus wary of this plan allows it, but only gives Malcolm 3 days before he sends out a little army. Malcolm arrives on ape land with his girlfriend and son along with a small team to get the dam working, including the idiot who shot an ape in the first place. After establishing a temporary truce with Ceasar and his apes Malcolm gets to work and begins to bond slightly with some of the more human friendly apes, despite tensions remaining high. Prominent ape in the group, Koba, however doesn’t agree with this and checks on what the humans are doing where he learns about their mass of guns. When Koba returns with this news, he gets in a fight with Ceasar that leaves him embarrassed and looking to take control of the group.
Just as Malcolm and his crew fix the lights, Koba lays his plan which involved an assasination attempt on Ceasar. With all the apes believing that Ceasar was dead and attacked by humans, he lays war on the unsuspecting humans. While for a moment it seemed as though the humans may hold their ground, the tide quickly turned. Before the night was over the apes were inside the colony and by morning apes were rounding up humans to be caged. It was quickly clear to the apes that if they wanted to survive they would follow Koba’s every order, a lesson that Ash found out the hard way resulting in his death. While things grew out of hand in the city, Malcolm found Caesar still alive. After they patched him up and reunited Blue Eyes with his dead it was time for Ceasar to regain control of the group. Humans had already contact more military support and Dreyfus blew c4 rigged around the tower the apes were occupying. In the end Ceasar was back in charge, but with a heavy heart as he knew that they couldn’t run as the war with humans had already begun.
/End Plot Summary
Apes do not kill Apes. Maurice preached this to the children at the beginning of the movie. Time and time again we saw this sentiment brought up in various ways as apes were tested. Each time the apes fought to remain true, to uphold the standard that they placed on themselves. Ceasar himself even admitted that he thought apes were better than humans because they maintained this rule. However, as chaos asserted itself as the film progressed we saw this ideal tested. For some apes it was no more than a phrase or a promise to be broken. Koba proved that he was willing to do whatever it takes to maintain his power and that meant asserting it on other apes. It was truly devastating when Koba killed Ash for not killing a human. The ideal was pushed even further when Ceasar faced a similar predicament. He was in a position to save Koba from his fate, but Koba had become such a poison to the group that wasn’t possible. To Ceasar, Koba was no longer an ape.
Which breaks up the concept of what makes a human. Yes, in the standard terms we are people. But when people talk about being human it means a lot more than that. It means upholding morals and doing the right thing. It means doing one’s best to protect the ones you care about and all the little things that make us human. When you think of all the traits that make up a human, aside from the physical, you begin to wonder how far from human are the apes. As we see jealousy and angst. We see trust and concern. We see gentleness in the world and the apes are as much a part of those portrayals as the humans. Koba was filled with a lust for power and dominance, just as Dreyfus was out for revenge. Carter harbored the same ill feelings toward the “dumb animals” as Koba did for humans. Ceasar realized this and recognized that they needed to do what was best.
While the movie raises a lot of philosophical and moral questions, it did lack a little big on the human characters. The apes felt rich. You could understand and see their motivations, however, many of the humans weren’t given the same attentions. We know very little about the idiot, Carter, who started this whole mess by shooting an innocent. And we knew even less about Foster who seemed to be there just as another indication that not all humans are bad. Dreyfus appeared to be a military man, who masqueraded as someone willing to hold their gunfire, but only temporarily. It would have been a bit nicer, if the human characters felt like more than just physical ideals.
That said, the real focus of the movie was supposed to be the apes. The humans were there just to work as facilitators that there are good and bad. The apes on the other hand stole the show. Caesar was again absolutely brilliant as we saw his mind work and him assert his power. Ceasar can see the good in both human and ape. Visually, Ceasar was stunning as well. The resemblance created between him and his son, Blue Eyes was extremely well done. As for Blue Eyes himself, it was wonderful seeing all that emotion portrayed on his face. All of the mocap that was done for these characters was absolutely phenomenal.
One of the key tenants of the film is trust. Time and time again humans have to learn to trust humans as apes need to trust humans. However, the trust is easy thrown to the wind when times are rocky. The apes were weary of the humans, though time proved that they needed to be just as weary of themselves. Each of the characters dealt with a trust issue to some degree as moved through the film. Ultimately, the entire string of events occurred because trust was a valued commodity that could be twisted and manipulated at the whim of another.
I would not be surprised if Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ends up being one of those movies people remember years from now. The topics that it brings up while remaining entertaining are proof that not all summer blockbusters are trite. However, if you are just looking for some fun, the movie will provide it if you have the patience to deal with the heavy focus on the emotional elements of the film. Even if you don’t watch the film in theatres, I would highly recommend that it makes it on to your to watch list.
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