DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014): Mistrusted Human vs. Civilized Apes

Dawn of The Planet of The Apes

First question: why “Dawn”? I think they choose “dawn” not because it is a more poetic noun than “start” or “beginning” or any other nouns with similar meaning. “Dawn” implies timing rather than activity; something that is perfect to match “rise”. The planet of the intelligent apes has already risen (remember how the intelligent apes claimed their freedom in a spectacular and climactic RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES), and DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES implies they begin to do a big thing—either in this movie or the next one.

I think it is unfair to explain to you earlier what kind of thing they will begin. But it is lucky if you catch the movie right now, on the cinema, while the current world or nation (I refer to you, the people of Indonesia) situation—or conflicting situation—still shows no indication of ending sooner. Funny how you could see through a movie and contemplate it to your current situation: your own self or your surrounding. DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES misses my prediction as just another sequel with bam-bam-boom-boom visual effects but no story; it eventually goes far better than that.

Dawn of The Planet of The Apes

Caesar (Andy Serkis in motion-capture acting) has begun a new civilization for the intelligent apes. He is a family man, he has a grownup son Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston, in motion-capture), and he’s expecting a baby from his beloved wife. The apes speak in sign language, they even learn letters and words (they had their principle written on stone: APE NOT KILL APE) from the group’s ‘educator’ Maurice (Karin Konoval, in motion-capture). The way they ride horses has already told us that they are no longer animals: they are a group of intelligent creatures.

But remember when ALZ-113 virus spread throughout the world from the blood-sneezing pilot neighbor in the first film? The world has been in damage; only a few of genetically immune people, led by Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), are left living in a ruined city. The news told them that the virus from chimps and apes, although they are informed that the real cause of the epidemic disease came from labs. So people take caution of apes. They are afraid of apes. They don’t even know if apes still exist in some other parts of the world.

And when they suddenly encounter apes in the wood, no wonder conflicts are lit. An ape is killed in the accidental meeting. The civilized apes take stand: they warn human not to enter their areas. However, in a situation where sources are limited, the human side, led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke), has to negotiate with the apes to enter some of the apes’ areas to fix a hydroelectric dam. That is not easy, of course, because it takes trust in between the two races. And just like what already happened or is happening both in world history or now, trust is often violated—and everything is so vulnerably leading to conflicts that take members from both sides as victims.

Dawn of The Planet of The Apes

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES seriously bests its prequel by both the story and visual. Three paragraphs above made a good sense that this is not a made-up. I mean, see how different it is from HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 whose story is nothing straightly continued from the prequel. RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES has no conclusion but it’s somehow climactic and apparently giving us an idea that there had to be a continuation (even better: everything was told only by the ending credit, not some Marvel-like post-credit scenes that apparently looks artificial—no offense!)

You can’t help but ooh-ing and aah-ing when you see how developed these intelligent human-wannabe animals have become. The indication of intelligence is more than just letters or words or even stammering speaking English. They have suspicion, they want to take pride, they made tactics and decisions. Suspicion, pride, tactics, defense, these are parts of intelligence. And the more you enter the movie, the more you are convinced that ‘apes’ is no longer a suitable word to describe Caesar and his group members.

And you can’t help but thinking through. Forget their ‘animal’ nature: DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is about how two races keep trust of each other. It is about how one race perceive a foreign race. Human questions, based on past information, if these apes are real danger. And at the same time apes ask, based on their past experience, if they should trust human. These questions by both races don’t get any clues of answering, so they just keep defending themselves with growing suspicion, which led them to war.

The way the movie builds emotion is perfect. Now we have Blue Eyes, so no wonder there’ll be a dad-son relationship that requires tears from us viewers. There are terrific moments for us to think through, especially when the gunfires are taken in inaudible sounds and no music. We can see how wrong a war is, no matter which are the victims. If there is anything lacking from this film, umm, may be the music. Michael Giacchino, as I recalled, didn’t make something more incredible than casual orchestraic songs. I expect something more memorable, more thematic, for DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES—something that we can hum while walking out of the cinema.

Dawn of The Planet of The Apes

Should you watch DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, don’t expect it as just another blockbuster summer movie. It is more thoughtful than that, so let’s seek some contemplation in it. Thus, after the ending credit rolls, you’ll find it funny how a movie of “a bunch of intelligent apes attack human” educates us about morality far better than current biased media does.

Dawn of The Planet of The Apes

4 out of 5 stars

2014 / Action, Drama, Sci-Fi / 130 min / PG-13

cast: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman,
Kodi Smit-McPhee, Keri Russell
written by Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, &
Amanda Silver, based on characters by Rick Jaffa
& Amanda Silver (based on novel
"La Plan├Ęte des Singes" by Pierre Boulle)

directed by Matt Reeves

Akbar Saputra

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  1. I just watched this the other day and i felt that it didn't impact me the way it has to other people. Maybe i just don't think it's more thoughtful than its first installment, but it was quite beautiful. What i really enjoyed though was the contrast between apes and men in accepting decision of its leaders in the time of conflict, and how the two colonies showed their territorialism. But other than that i had a hard time to really invest feelings to this particular film :(

    1. I think one of the reasons Dawn seemed so good for me is because of the way I related it to imply the world's current situation (you know, a nation attacked another nation). Also, national current political situation also affects the way I saw the movie. I think it's quite good in depicting how two groups, no matter if they consist of human or not, can never put off suspicion to each other despite the presence of wise leader leading each of the groups. This makes Dawn suddenly feels satire. :)