Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Horseape Gun: The Movie.
"One last chance for peace."

I mean, they say that but really was there EVER a chance for peace, for anyone? I sincerely doubt it, if people were looking for peace they'd probably have fewer tanks. Anyway welcome back to The Tagline! As promised, today is honorary emotional about primates day, and I will be talking about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the sequel to the 2011 film Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which you can read more about here. If you recall (or just read that link) Rise of the Planet of the Apes covers how the apes become super smart, and makes you really depressed in the process. This movie details the growth of the fledgling ape civilization, even as human society is crumbling in the wake of a devastating virus (the same one that made the apes so damned smart). Before I actually talk in earnest about the movie, I first need to quibble about the notion that a very small population of super-intelligent apes would proliferate and survive in the wild, as a species. incidental illness alone would make them genetically unviable as a population, and machine guns killing them by the hundreds would definitely make their dominance super unlikely. YES in a movie about super smart apes my problem is that I find the number of apes and their opposition to make dominance an unlikely outcome. Otherwise I am totally on board with these apes learning to talk and building a community based on mutual trust. Well, for the most part that's true.

Post-Apocalypse Gary Oldman is my favorite radio show.
Whereas Rise was a very subtle lead in to the whole end of the world and then apes take over situation, Dawn starts off with us directly in the middle of that full-scale disaster. The movie opens with a montage of society's rapid spiral into oblivion, the one that fiction seems to be trying its best to WILL into happening, followed by the state of the monkey union, with Caesar and his followers hunting, and then returning to their actually pretty large and elaborate home deep in the redwood forests. This peaceful existence is not to last however, and soon a small band of humans stumbles into the ape territory, and naturally decides to lead off by shooting someone. Caesar is not too keen on that bullshit, and promptly tells all the humans to fuck off, which for a brief time they do. Unfortunately the humans are striking out into the wilderness because it contains a hydroelectric dam that is their only hope for maintaining power. Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) the leader of the human settlement in the ruins of San Francisco, fears that if the lights go out for good it will lead to the disintegration of what little order has been restored. In this tense position, Dreyfus allows Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and a small team to go back into the forest, to try and negotiate a peaceful resolution. Dreyfus meanwhile begins to prepare for what he feels is an inevitable conflict with the apes.

You can really feel them silently judging you.
Malcolm is attempting to avoid a war. Caesar is also attempting to avoid a war. Unfortunately, as you might have deduced from menacing overtones in Rise, Koba is NOT attempting to avoid a war. Koba thinks humans all suck ass, and he'd love nothing more than to kill and enslave the lot of them. Admittedly, he was tortured and experimented on for most of his life, so you can kind of see where he's coming from, but his attitude is not productive, and Caesar doesn't think so either. Still "Ape not kill ape" so Caesar leaves Koba to run around and predictably stir up trouble. What follows is a seemingly inevitable trail that leads to war, but I won't tell you what actually happens because I really think you should experience it yourself without being spoiled, because I thought this movie was THAT good, both as a sci-fi movie and a Planet of the Apes movie. It was really impressive how they framed a film with talking apes riding horses that looked and seemed both natural and believable. My suspension of disbelief was never disrupted while I watched this film.

Also Ender is in the movie. He does not kill all the apes in space.
The effects, especially the motion and face capture, did a lot to further this. Andy Serkis did an amazing job once again as Caesar, a character who is thoughtful, solemn, and wise, and who you really empathize with over the course of the movie as he attempts to secure a peaceful future for his people, and as reflects back on the home and friends that he has lost. He is by no means the only sympathetic character or even the only Ape with a strong character (Maurice is a pretty chill dude for instance) but this movie, much like the one before it, is still very much Caesar's story. I find it remarkable that they can make a movie with CGI apes, and yet still have one of them stand out so clearly even in hectic action sequences (and you really can't mistake any other ape for the grave countenance of Caesar). There are a large number of living actors who are substantially less expressive than Caesar is without even needing to speak. The action and effects in this movie never felt cheap or unnecessarily flashy, and I would have considered that an accomplishment by itself.

Go see the movie or get taken out gangster style by Caesar.
There is really something to be said for the narrative here though. Even if it is a movie about a post-apocalyptic settlement of humans being threatened by a growing society of hyper-intelligent apes, this movie's plot and themes are so central to human experience that it would be hilarious if it weren't so sad. Themes about culturally separated societies, the value of family, the price of peace, and the senselessness of war for starters. Even if half the cast are apes, this movie says something significant about human nature (which apparently is a lot like ape nature in the end) It was surprising to me, even after how good the first movie was, that this film hit so hard and managed to be so poignant without seeming like it was trying too hard. There are some scenes that I honestly think are really emotional and maybe I teared up during a few of them. It is a film which is very sad, because it is so very true.

I know, that was gross, and I'm sorry, but this movie really took me to a place. Anyway, join me again next week, for probably a less dramatic post about something not as thoughtful.

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