Friday, January 23, 2015

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

by Alyssa Couball, Writing Intern


Sequels have to go above and beyond expectations to really have a “wow” effect on me. After watching Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, I am nothing short of amazed. Directed by Matt Reeves (who directed the movie’s first installment), the movie reveals what happened to Caesar when cameras stopped rolling. It begins ten years later as Caesar rules a large group of evolved apes, living a self-reliant lifestyle in the woods, just outside of San Francisco. Nearby, an exhausted group of human simian flu survivors struggle to exist. Their best hope for survival is to get to a dam and get power going. The only problem? The dam dwells deep in ape territory. 

Human leader Malcolm (Jason Clarke), and Caesar (Andy Serkis) must develop a level of trust and care and quickly to allow the restoration to take place. Fellow ape and lieutenant Koba, who lived through grotesque experimentation in the previous film, challenges this hope for restoration. Caesar pleas with Koba: not all humans are bad. But, his bitterness takes over. Koba leads an attack on the human’s city. It’s up to Caesar and Malcolm to join forces, stop Koba, and restore peace to both groups. 

In its opening week, “Dawn” grossed $66 million. So, why do I think the sequel’s above expectation? One, computer graphics. I could actually feel Caesar’s pain based on his facial expressions and body movements. Sure, apes riding horses while holding machine guns is absolutely laughable. But, each ape had his/her own quality or “personality” that made the movie overall astoundingly realistic. 

Two, it was incredibly long. Why waste time watching an hour and a half movie? I like movies that actually last. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes runs about 2 hours and 10 minutes. It didn’t lag like other movies either. It kept my attention. It’s complete action from beginning to end. 

Lastly, I enjoyed the movie’s message. In the first movie, the message portrayed what animal experimentation can lead to. I think we assume, based on the film’s history that humans and apes will be fighting each other. This time, however, apes fought each other. Throughout the entire movie, Koba tries to persuade Caesar not to trust the humans because all humans are bad. His feelings are understandable, after the horrible treatment he received at the hands of humans. He couldn’t transition like Caesar. Caesar learned to trust humans; he had an open mind. The movie also teaches that we can’t always trust those closest to us. Koba acts as Caesar’s right hand--someone he can always turn to. By the end, Koba kills his own son. Humans weren't Koba’s real issue. His real issues stem from his jealousy of Caesar’s power. 

The film does have holes. Where in the world is James Franco? If I have one sequel-based pet peeve, it’s when they don’t keep their original characters. Sure, the movie explains from the beginning that most of humanity is wiped out by the flu. And, Malcolm, Ellie (Keri Russell), Alexander(Kodi Smit ­McPhee), and Caesar visit Caesar’s old home where he and Will once lived. But the house seems as if it’s been abandoned for years. The audience is left completely confused about his whereabouts. 

The ending is a bit confusing as well. It ends peacefully. Caesar reestablishes peace and control over his tribe. The humans were able to get power and hopefully restore humanity. The immediate conflict is over, but Caesar knows--much like viewers know--that war is forthcoming. It seems to be apparent in each of the “Ape” movies that war is inevitable. 

A new “Planet of the Apes” movie will be released in 2016. And this time around director Reeves says, “I don't necessarily think that there will be as big a leap between films.” There is a ten year gap between “Rise” and “Dawn” that the sequel did not explore. I just hope the next sequel is as good as its predecessors. 
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