Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes - 2014
With as busy as this past summer was, I was not able to make it to the theater to see Dawn. So when it came available on Amazon, I put it on pre-order and waited. It arrived and last night my daughter and I watched a Planet of the Apes double feature night.
I did take advantage of the opportunity to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes in the theater and was very impressed and enjoyed it in every aspect. I had high expectations for Dawn and found that while I enjoyed it, there are a few things that I found lacking in Dawn.
The events of Dawn take place ten years after the events in Rise. The ALZ-113 virus that was developed has been dubbed the Simian Virus and has wiped out most of the human population. There would seem to be scattered pockets of humanity that are immune to the virus. One such pocket, located in San Francisco, is facing the dilemma of running out of energy and will soon not be able to keep the lights on. They know that there is a hydroelectric generating plant and if it can be repaired, they will have all of the electricity they need for sometime.
Meanwhile, across the Golden Gate in Muir Woods, Caesar and his band of intelligent apes have managed to do pretty well for themselves, being fruitful and multiplying into vast numbers. The would seem to have set up their own society living in peace. As they contemplate their existence, they are aware that something has happened and they speculate on whether there are any humans left on the planet.
That question is soon answered as a small band of humans from San Francisco arrive on an apparent hunting exposition. One trigger happy member of the human band shoots an ape and the problems start. Ceasar sends the humans away, preventing his fellow apes from exacting revenge on the humans.
Caesar's lieutenant, Koba feels that they should take advantage of the human weakness and attack, but Caesar logically thinks that while that might happen, there may also be a large loss of life among the ape population. Koba remains ambitious while he remembers what was done to him at the hands of human scientists. At any rate, Caesar leads his troops to San Francisco to tell the humans to stay in their city while promising that the apes will stay in their home and everyone will get along just fine.
The humans return to Muir Woods to ask permission to repair the hydroelectric generator so they can at least have electricity. Caesar reluctantly agrees and relations improve but again deteriorate when Koba discovers that the humans are preparing for war. Koba returns to the woods with a weapon and, while being very angry that Ceasar is cooperating with the humans, decides to take matters into his own hands. Koba sets the ape village on fire and shoots Caesar. Koba then incites his fellow apes, blaming the humans for everything and leads an invasion of San Francisco.
The humans come upon Caesar, finding that, while being severely wounded, is not dead. They nurse him back to health and take him to San Francisco where he confronts and defeats Koba and once again becomes the leader of the apes. However, during the conflict between the invading apes and the good people of San Francisco, one enterprising individual manages to get in touch with a military base using his amateur radio set and puts out the call for help. Caesar knows that there is a bigger war coming soon.
The film ends with the promise of another sequel.
There was a lot that I liked about this film. First off, the visual impact is, without a doubt, excellent. The CGI for the apes was even better in Dawn than it was in Rise, giving the film emotional impact. One could feel what the apes felt, and could even be fooled into thinking that they were real actors. I also thought the story was solid, at least for the most part. I was into it as far as wanting to see what would happen next, and even knowing that the apes would eventually get the upper hand, I found that there were sufficient surprises along to way to hold my interest.
Unfortunately, I found that I was disappointed on a few points also. While I found the story interesting and the visuals well done, I found the acting performances of the human cast uninteresting and shallow. This actually led me to wonder what exactly the movie was about. I am still not sure exactly what I was supposed to focus on in dawn.
Was Dawn supposed to be about? The plight of the apes? The plight of the humans? The conflict between the humans and the apes? The conflict within the human camp? The conflict within the ape camp? I think there was far too much crammed into one film to really get a handle on what the message of the film really is.
My biggest disappointment was in how the humans were handled in this movie. I found that I couldn't care less whether the humans accomplished what they set out to do or not. The humans were shallow, had no background (save for one that had worked for the CDC before the catastrophe), and were not at all memorable.
The main human characters were someone named Malcom, who seemed to be in charge of improving human-ape relationships by negotiating passage to the power plant. Where did he come from? What did he do before the Simian Virus struck? The there was his son, who liked to scetch and had seen some events that "no child should ever see." What was his purpose? What did he see? Then there is Ellie, who worked for the CDC, and also seems to be rather adept at treating apeish ailments, but again, shallow and undeveloped. Gary Oldman plays the leader of the human population of San Francisco. So what? Probably the only character I really cared about what happened to was Curt as protrayed by Kirk Acevedo; I was very happy to see this guy get his trigger happy butt kicked, but again, another shallow character.
Try, as I did, I really didn't care about the humans in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and thought that they were nothing more than a plot device to give the apes something to be in conflict with and to cause conflict within the ape ranks.
Despite the problems I have with Dawn, I liked the film for what I think it is, that being a bridge between Rise of the Planet of the Apes and the next film due in 2016 and has yet to be titled.
Well, there it is...