Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes.
Enjoying Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes requires only one thing from you: admitting that you bought into the idea that super-intelligent apes have forged their own society (and can talk, ride horses, accurately operate heavy weaponry on the first try, as well as manipulate basic political principles). After that, this follow-up from Matt Reeves, the director of Cloverfield and Let Me In, is wall to wall gripping cinema.
Ten years have passed since the outbreak of the hyper-infectious and deadly Simian flu, which has wiped out the constructs of modern society. The dregs of humanity that we’re introduced to survive in an isolated compound, fronted by the tortured Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), whose continued strive to rebuild from the ashes of his past push the group to increasingly extreme methods of survival. With their gas-powered generators running low on fuel, they head up into the woodlands surrounding San Francisco to kickstart an old dam in the hopes it will once again light up the city. Concurrently, Smart-Ape-kind has flourished in this assumed woodland habitat, building themselves a tribal home among the pine trees. Caesar, the creator of this newfound intelligent race, rules his faithful kin with a firm but loving fist (paw?). They live in a cautious, but prosperous community founded on the tenets of trust, family, development for the future and a surprisingly specific sign language.
For all of its inherent silliness, the film is staggeringly beautiful. WETA studios have outdone themselves (again) in their work on the apes. Their expressions, emotions and physicality have reached new heights, giving Caesar and his family not only completely convincing performances, but downright Oscar-worthy ones. The subtle moments of harmony within the ape community are truly touching. The birth of Caesar’s second son, especially, is a towering achievement, both technically and tonally. The action, too, is laden with excitement and genuine weight. The ebb and flow of tension culminates in some truly memorable sequences of sprawling and often harrowing violence.
The foundations of this film lie in the interplay between conflicting ideologies, objectives and races. After all, with an intelligence to rival that of a human, how different is an ape, really? Not at all, suggest screenwriters Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver. And more than just a functional way to facilitate that human-ape war we’ve all be waiting for, they’ve cleverly crafted the film to exist as a parallel to the state of utter destruction our world is currently in.
Each development in the plot branches one of two ways: that of the xenophobic and that in the name of co-existence. As you can guess, Caesar is a catalyst for the latter. Sympathetic towards the hopeless human congregation, he forges an uneasy truce with Malcolm (Jason Clarke), which will essentially ensure the two species will never cross paths in future. This doesn’t bode well with the likes of Dreyfus, who isn’t alone in assuming that these apes were responsible for the annihilation of their loved ones. The same goes for the grizzled Bonobo, Koba, who likewise despises humankind for their years of inhumane torture. Essentially, the writers have boiled it down to a single question (followed quickly by a resolute answer in that bummer of an ending): with our firm tradition of distrust, greed and thirst for vengeance, can humankind really coexist with anybody, human, ape or otherwise?
Not really. Not even in a fictional world where apes can charge on horseback firing heavy machine guns from each hand.