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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) – A Movie Review

The simian flu wiped out a big part of humankind, and the extant humans are killing each other in riots and confrontations. In solely ten years the human population have been decimated to a minimum. The last reminding people are scattered around the world, and a little group is running around San Francisco looking for their last resort before all the fuel gets completely consumed, trying desperately to avoid a potentially catastrophic next winter. However, the hope suddenly goes away when the explorers clash with the genetically engineered ape population living in the woods nearby. What do humans will do to survive? What are they capable of?

That is the premise of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014), a movie that explores human nature, war and our relationship with the surrounding environment.

“They're animals!”

This is the second installment of the rebooted series of Planet of the Apes. The movie starts ten years later after the ending of Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), when the virus produced by Gen-Sys broke out and disseminated around the world. This time the cast is formed by Andy Serkis (LotR series, Rise of the Planet of the Apes), Jason Clarke (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, The Great Gatsby), Gary Oldman (The Dark Night, Robocop), Keri Russell (Felicity, Mission: Impossible III), Toby Kebbell (RocknRolla, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time) and Kirk Acevedo (The Thin Red Line, Invincible) among many others.

Serkis as Caesar is the only main actor replaying his character in this new episode of the series. Of course, the secondary actors Terry Notary (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Cabin in the Woods) as Rocket, and Karin Konoval (Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, Diary of a Wimpy Kid) as Maurice repeated their characters too. I wanted to mention these three actors along with Kebbell as Koba, because they are the main “ape” cast. Like the last movie, the apes are CGI-rendered using motion caption technology. The apes in general are fine. They look believable and the acting is not really bad. However, my favorites ones are Serkis and Kebbell as fearsome monkeys fighting for what they think is right, the other ones are somewhat dull, or lacking depth in their interpretations. Nevertheless, sometimes Caesar and Koba look unidimensional too, specially in the action scenes.

The human cast is not that good, unfortunately. With the exception of Gary Oldman, who has short time on screen comparing to Clarke and Russell, all the human cast lacks of credibility as people fighting for their survival. They don't seem connected with the situation emotionally, impacting the movie negatively. Gary Oldman on the other hand, expresses remarkably his pain and frustration as the human leader trying to solve a dead-end situation the best he can, particularly after all the horror that he and the other people around him lived. Keri Russell plays a former CDC nurse acting as a medic in this new world. Russell isn't that bad, but there is something about her that makes her look fake, but I can't figure out what it is. Hum, Could it be the hair? Nah! Jason Clarke interprets another human leader with a more conciliatory style that thinks problems can be solved reasoning to get mutual-beneficial agreements, and not only taking everything by force. Acevedo performs a fearful jerk, who doesn't have the nerve to stand like a man and face the problems, and thinks that everything can be solved with a gun. If only he had used it well! The problem with Acevedo's character is that he behaves very idiotic and make stupid things just for the sake of it. In that sense, his character looks too prejudiced, too bland, and maybe too flat.

However, and in spite of the mediocre acting, it doesn't hit the bottom, and all these characters work together well, being possible for the movie to convey its message to the audience effectively.

Why can't we all live in peace?

As a good science fiction movie, and in the well-established tradition of Planet of the Apes series; Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is an interesting allegory of our life, but it is a different one from the last movie. This time the conflict revolves around our human nature, the origin of war, and our lack of communication skills.

We have this human population traumatized due to the events that happened during the past ten years, trying to survive, and barely remembering how they used to live before the tragedy overwhelmed them. On the other hand, we have the apes, powerful and intelligent creatures founding a new society from the ashes of our civilization. This story retells human history from a survivors point of view when they have to face an open competition for resources and space. What happens when two predators confront each other for food, power or territory? War.

This movie shows clearly the ethical conundrum that a group of survivors must endure in order to stay alive. Shall we all coexist in peace?, or on the contrary, shall we take all by force? At first glance, we see the apes like those “noble savages” from Jean-Jacques Rousseau, living in harmony with nature and their fellow apes. As the movie evolves, we can see the same dilemma and fights for power on the ape side, as a reflection of our own desires and flaws. The humans and the apes are two different faces of the same coin. They have to deal with their own nature and instincts, and they should compromise in order to survive, but will they?

I love this movie because it makes you think in all those conflicts happening right now, and how difficult it is for us these days to identify ourselves with the victims of war. However, when you see both sides in this movie, you think, wow, all these people have a point, and besides they share lots of things in common, how is it then they can't sit down and talk? Why can't they understand each other? Why can't we too? This movie shows when people and apes choose the lust of power over reason, and shows what happens when they cooperate together. Although life isn't that simple as shown in the movies, this film hits the bullseye: Sometimes we prefer to follow the path of our own prejudices that only leads right to our own destruction before making a stop on the road and think. Why is so difficult to understand?

upload.wikimedia.org_wikipedia_commons_a_ab_sdcc13_-_dawn_of_the_planet_of_the_apes_289348023398_29.jpg
Comicon 2013 Panel. From left to right: Director Matt Reeves, Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, and Andy Serkis. Picture by William Tung CC-BY-2.0 1)

In Conclusion

This is a good movie with a very mediocre acting, and it could have been much better. However, Gary Oldman's acting is as always outstanding. The script is well written and explores multiple humankind issues. Additionally, it has lots of action and nice special effects. The music reminds me a bit of the old Planet of the Apes movies that barely gives a nostalgic feeling to the ambiance.

In general, it is a movie fun to watch that you can't miss this summer.

Disclaimer

Categorization

References:
1) Tung, William (July 20th 2013). The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes panel with [left to right] director Matt Reeves, Jason Clarke, Keri Russel, and Andy Serkis. (Uploaded by daisydeee) [CC BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en)], undefined. Picture Available On-line in http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ab/SDCC13_-_Dawn_of_the_Planet_of_the_Apes_%289348023398%29.jpg

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