Sunday, August 17, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) takes the helm from Rupert Wyatt, with a startling sequel to the first Planet of the Apes film, entitled "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes". The result is a gripping, visceral and very emotional addition with topical parallels to our current world.

A simian flu has throttled the globe. Humans are vanishing and apes, of all shapes and sizes have their own society. As depicted, it is a huge treehouse city in California.

The humans have taken refuge in a giant defunct warehouse near what resembles Chinatown.

The humans are organized by one Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) a war like vet who still feels he is in combat. The humans need electricity. The ape friendly relief worker, Malcolm (Jason Clarke) steps in to hopefully offer a compromise to the apes and avert a war.

The apes are headed by the genius Caesar (Andy Serkis) who was a baby chimp in the first film and is now a (mostly) benevolent leader, given his human-infused education.

Tensions rise when human guns are brought in to the mix and a debate arises regarding human trust.

Central to the film's spirit is Andy Serkis whose bodily poetry is nothing less than transcendent in bringing Caesar to life.

These are no mere digital creatures but rather animated and emotional beings. Despite the apocalyptic trappings which makes the "hook," the core of "Dawn" is its emotional resonance. The tension and suspense ranks with the best Spielberg cliffhangers of the 80s when cinematic thrills were in their heyday.

There is a malicious Bonobo named Koba (Toby Kebbell) who takes on the guise of a tribal warlord. While on the human side, Dreyfus acts the fascist with a human-centric society.

Several analogies can be made here, chief among them being the plight of the Native Americans, but the story also touches on terrorism, the issue of preemptive strikes and perhaps, the quest for Palestine and Israel to exist in peace.

Suffice to say, independence and power are universal strivings for all carbon-based life forms.

Above all else, some very tangible pathos and energy suffuses every aspect of this Saturday Matinee film.

Simply put, we forget the technology entirely. During the film's motion, these rhythmic entities are no soulless entities, but living apes.


In watching, the emotion evoked produces questions. What are are responsibilities as humans. Are the apes really less evolved than us? Or are they our contemporaries? And, just maybe, they are superior.

No, you don't have to reflect deeply on this film. Yet the possibilities are there.

One deep look from Caesar and a singular scorned reproach from Koba, recalling the very real existence of scientific torture by experimentation, is reflexively saddening and genuinely paining. Such scenes will have one lamenting our petty self-centered acts, a long tale of woe that still endures.

Yet all is not gloom. "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" makes for terrific episodic entertainment in the tradition of  "Star Trek" and Indiana Jones. It just might recall the kitschy 1970s to be sure but gone are the days of one hammy Charlton Heston and his xenophobic histrionics.

This is the age where simian IQ is no Halloween masquerade and our ape ancestors are equal in desire, struggle and empathy.

Here, Here! Awareness has indeed arrived under the conjurer's trick of a thrilling film, and it is not a moment too soon.

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