So I watched Dawn of the Planet of the Apes…
Rise of the Planet of the Apes was one of the unexpected pleasures of 2011. From the trailer to the actual movie I was enthralled by the idea of the story and its actual execution. So, needless to say, I had high hopes for this movie and even before I saw it, knew it would be one of the best movies of 2014.
Okay, basic plot: it’s 10 years after the events of Rise and Caesar and his apes have built a home in the forest and have no interaction with humans – it’s actually been years since they saw humans and the apes believe them to be extinct. On the flip of this, a colony of humans are based in the city near the Apes’ home and they’ve been hit pretty hard by the virus from the first film. They are small in number and need a new way to generate electricity because they are running low on fuel. A hydro-electric dam is deemed their best shot for survival, unfortunately, this dam is located in the Apes’ territory. Cue the CONFLICT!!
One of the things I loved most about this movie is that it’s actually about the apes. In a year where we’ve had a Godzilla movie that didn’t really show Godzilla and a Spiderman movie that was actually a 500 Days of Summer remake, it was refreshing to see a movie that actually featured the titular characters. We’re introduced to the apes and caught up on how they’ve progressed over the last ten years. But the apes haven’t become more ‘human’ because of their increased intelligence. They still act like apes, they still handle issues the way apes would, they don’t walk around in clothes or spend hours in front of a tv, they are still apes and they have managed to keep their identity.The first twenty minutes or so of this movie have no spoken dialogue and whenever the apes communicate, they do it with sign language (just as in the first movie). I felt this set the tone for the movie perfectly. Everything in this movie feels deliberate, planned and purposeful.
The first twenty minutes having no spoken word is such an innovative step. You are made to focus not only on what the apes are saying but also the manner in which it is said. I really can’t describe how amazing it was watching the apes sign and what it added to the story. You really have to see it, to get it. It helps you connect with the apes so much and adds a great dimension to the film.
That being said, this movie isn’t just about apes. I tried to convince a few people to come see this with me and those who rejected the offer often said something along the lines of, “I don’t wanna watch a movie about monkeys”. First of all, it’s Planet of the APES; second of all, this movie has a story that is possibly one of the most socially relevant ever told. This movie is about conflict, in the context of this movie, the conflict is between species but this issue can be substituted with any other. This movie could have been about differences in race, religion, nationality, basically any issue that we humans, use as justification to hate and kill.
One of this movie’s best features is the characters. The four main ones are Caesar, leader of the apes; Koba, Caesar’s second in command; Dreyfus, leader of the human settlement near the apes’ home and Malcolm, an engineer who’s tasked with setting up the dam and using it to generate power for the city. Caesar and Malcolm are very similar, they both want peace through co-existence. Dreyfus and Koba also want peace but through different means, they favour violence and suppression. Caesar grew up with humans so he can appreciate their capacity for compassion. Koba was a lab rat, experimented on all his life and he knows only of man’s capacity for torture and cruelty. So both sets of characters are justified in the methods they choose to use – not wrong or right but justified.
The clashes in ideals and methods between these characters is really what provides the conflict and tension in the movie. It’s not the group that provides the tension, the group (whether it be human or ape) is neither inherently good or evil, the group is concerned with its survival and it puts its survival in the hands of individuals it selects as leaders. These individuals, these leaders are the ones we can consider good or evil. This principle is perfectly worded by Caesar when he says, “Apes always seek strongest branch.” They aren’t concerned with whether the branch is good or evil, they choose it because it’s their best way to survive. This was one of my favourite themes in the movie because – like almost everything in this movie – it gives you a great explanation of how the world works at times.
A good friend and I, often discuss this movie and he suggested that it should be compulsory film study in schools. There is so much to be learnt from the themes this film discusses and the way the characters behave. It is more than just a film, it’s a social commentary on the world and a blueprint to how fix things. Look, I’m not saying that if every person on Earth watched this movie, wars would end, segregation would be destroyed and we’d all hold hands and sing kumbaya but this movie has a lesson in it, that we all need to learn. I think there’s something everyone can take away from this movie and something that we’ll all feel passionate about and want to discuss and sometimes discussion is the first step to the solution. Personally, I loved Caesar and thought his approach was probably the most sensible to things but this movie really made me appreciate Koba and his thought process; it made me see how violence and warfare have their place in peace. This might sound a bit contradictory to what I’ve said before but it just gave me a different perspective to things and being able to see things from other people’s views is sometimes an invaluable quality.
That being said, this movie is also great to watch on a purely superficial level. When I first saw the trailer, the main thing that grabbed me was seeing the apes ride horses and shoot guns. It really melted my brain and seeing that happen was just so entertaining. This movie also has a fair bit of action and a lot of moments that are just badass and fun to watch without thinking.
I have to put in a mention about the motion-capture technology in this movie. Visually it’s breathtaking and with CGI and animation being so amazing, we often take for granted how much work goes into making these amazing graphics. I watched quite a few behind-the-scenes specials and interviews with the cast and just hearing about the amount of work they put in to not only generating the images on computers but the research that went into mimicking ape movements and making it look authentic just blew my mind. Andy Serkis is obviously the god of motin-capture but Toby Kebbell puts in a performance that threatens to dethrone Andy “god” Serkis.
This movie is a great film in every aspect of film-making.
I can’t think of enough good things to say about this movie. It is brilliant from the technical aspects to the acting to the writing, it’s a homerun. Socially, this movie is probably the most important movie released this year. I know that this movie is a sequel that’s also technically a prequel but also a reboot but this movie is its own story. It stands on its own two feet and has the confidence to follow through on the promise of its story. If I had to discuss the entirety of the things I loved about this movie, this post would never end. Go watch it! Watch it with family, with friends and, most importantly, talk about it afterwards. I guarantee they’ll be some interesting debates and heated conversations created from this movie. It’s a triumph 9/10