Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014): How the Trauma of the Past Can Devour the Future

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” was so close to being the perfect film in the franchise…and after proceeded to destroy that in the last third of the movie with how it handled two of it’s characters. I’ll go into the details of this in the assessment.

First the premise, the premise is that 10 years of passed since the Simian Flu has wiped out most of the human population. The opening actually has the news reports and shows the spread of the virus and decimation of populations. We pick up  with the apes from the last film who have built a civilization in the Redwoods and think humanity is gone, until some survivors appear trying to reach the dam for energy for their city when one of them panics and shoots one of the apes. From here the story unfolds as Caesar (Andy Serkis) and Malcolm (Jason Clark) try to build trust…while Koba (Toby Kebbell) and Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) (both victims of trauma in different ways) have none. From here the story unfolds.

Spoilers ahead

Here is the assessment of the film:

Pros: The Inspiration from “Battle for the Planet of the Apes,” this movie takes inspiration from Conquest with certain roles traded out. We have Malcolm in the place of McDonald as the human trying to build trust, there is Dreyfus as the Governor Kolp, Koba as General Aldo and in both Caesar has a son and faces the threat from within (Koba) and without (Dreyfus). We see the apes outside of Caesar learning to trust as well with Maurice in the role of Virgil. The story also ends in a battle that sets up the future of “The Planet of the Apes.”

The Special Effects – Are top of the game again. We see details in the facial scans of people playing the apes and the battles sequences are beautiful…though at times a bit too video game like.

Caesar – Andy Serkis is back and his character has grown. We see Caesar the leader who is a bit of a Xenophobe towards humans until Malcolm puts himself at risk in order to show that humans can be trusted…and why the humans need the dam for energy. You see moments where the trust is broken when of his men hides a gun when Caesar’s condition was no weapons…and how it comes back when Caesar realizes apes are the same as humans…that there are good and bad of both. He has great moments with his son Blue Eyes and his wife (and when Malcolm’s wife saves his wife from illness). As well as when he is back in his old home hiding and finds a video of Will (James Franco) and him as a child. It is a tender moment and powerful when he owns up to the fact that in the end it was the apes who started the war and that humanity will not trust them because of it.

Maurice – Maurice, the orangutan from the last movie returns and is teaching the young how to read and the the laws (Ape shall not kill ape). We see him connect with Alexander, Malcolm’s son and Malcolm teaches him how to read. He is also Caesar’s core ally and speaks the most actively against violence, even to the point of defending Alexander.

Blue Eyes – Blue eyes is great. We see him as a follower of Koba initially, until Koba’s heal turn where everyone is a threat who isn’t a loyalist…after that Blue Eyes realizes his father was right all along and helps restore him to power once he learns he is alive.

The Apes – The ape civilization is the highlight of this film. We see complex interactions between them and how they honor each other or show the other has dominance by reaching out their hand with head bowed. They also have a hierarchy based on those closest to Caesar (the ones mentioned from the last film).

Dreyfus – Gary Oldman owns this role. He is complicated and is willing to give Malcolm time to find a peaceful solution, though at the same time he trains his men in case of war. He reminds me a lot of Caesar before Caesar learns that apes are no different from men. We see a man who is a veteran who has experienced trauma and lost his family to the Simian Flu and is doing all he can to keep it together (he breaks down once power is back and he realizes everything he’s lost). He pulls a George Taylor at the end blowing himself up to try and destroy the apes in the building they are on…and you get why he does what he does at each point. He never attacks, only defends. He is an antagonist since at the end he doesn’t trust Malcolm…but he also had no reason to and Malcolm comes off as super naive through most of the film.

The Message – The message was actually real, and great. It clearly showed how trauma can change people and cause distrust and bring out the worst in ourselves. We saw that before Koba jumped the shark to go completely evil and we see that through the eyes of Dreyfus and the other apes. The apes are changed by the trauma of believing themselves under attack and it makes them tools of Koba or in humanity’s case…tools of Dreyfus.

Okay: Koba – Koba could have been a great villain. He had reasons to hate the humans (he was the Bonobo who was experimented on in the last film). We see his distrust here and when he finds humans in the city training with guns. But he loses all credibility when he begins killing his own and arresting those who disagree with him after his assassination attempt on Caesar (which makes sense since Caesar nearly beats him to death). Third act he is arresting those who disagree and when Caesar is back he owns up to nothing…he is just a sociopath and the whole point of trauma ruining good people get’s thrown out the door. He could have been the best baddie…but even Aldo felt guilt.

Malcolm’s family – His new partner Elli and his son Alexander are interesting, just not strong characters. His kid is a blank slate who has some good moments with Maurice but is just there to motivate Malcolm…and his wife Elli heals Caesar’s wife and goes from distrust to trust…but we never see why…beyond Caesar’s baby connecting with them all.

Humanity – After everything shown in the three videos leading up to this movie…I wish we’d gotten more of that. We don’t see how complicated things are in the city or how it works. All we know is Dreyfus and Malcolm created it…it isn’t bad, but there isn’t much there. Would have liked to see more of the post apocalyptic society.

Cons: Koba’s transformation – I get him snapping after being nearly beaten to death by Caesar (can’t trust apes now), but he doesn’t even play lip service to Caesar except at the beginning. Not only does he become an outright villain (locking up Caesar’s friends, killing Ash…Rocket’s son) it is never explained. He has no guilt after us seeing a thinking and feeling person who had been through so much trauma. I hated that. He could have turned against Caesar if they had made some of Dreyfus’s men attack in retaliation for some of them being killed by Koba after Koba takes vengeance for Ash being injured originally. The third act really falls apart.

The Third Act – Malcolm still trusts the apes after they destroy his home and imprison people in cages…he protects Caesar even though he knows they are attacking his city under Koba and he holds Dreyfus hostage for having the gall to fight back.

Malcolm – From holding his friends hostage, to never fighting the apes or thinking fighting back is an option…this guy wins the award for most naive protagonist. Talking is one thing, when they’re attacking you…you kind of have to defend yourself. He doesn’t get it until Caesar tells him at the end. “Peace over. Apes started war, humans will not forgive.” To word it one way. He could have been great if he’d felt like the apes had to offer him something. Trust goes both ways…and I don’t just mean letting him get power for the humans in the city in order for them to live.

The Final Fight – This felt excessive and unneeded. People saw that Caesar was alive, by surviving the attempt on his life and revealing Koba to be the one behind it should have got the others behind him. Instead they have a long fight in the Gen-Sys tower that leads to it eventually collapsing after Dreyfus blows it up. What a waste, less is more guys.

This movie was not the strongest or the best of the “Planet of the Apes” Franchise. It was good, but not great. I would recommend it anyone who likes the series though and it looking for an interesting film to see this summer.

Final score for this film is 8.3 / 10. Had so much potential that was wasted in the final act.

 

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3 thoughts on “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014): How the Trauma of the Past Can Devour the Future

    1. cameronmoviesandtv Post author

      I agree with a lot of your review minus how Koba was handled. We see someone who trusts Caesar and is actually a good adviser based off his experiences…this is all wasted later when he goes outright baddie in order for Dreyfus to become an antagonist. Malcolm was way more trusting than he should have been too given the circumstances. He was living in a world where all was lost and he’d seen Koba threaten his people…even after his city has been invaded he is still trusting the apes. Caesar has to wake him up to the truth of the situation when he should have realized it after Koba’s coup. These are the reasons I think “Battle” was actually better and though the film was good, I wouldn’t call it great.

      Reply
  1. Pingback: Planet of the Apes Franchise Retrospect – Worst to Best of the Franchise | cameronmoviesandtv

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