#MixxReview: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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This year has been filled with sci-fi blockbusters. The latest to hit the big screen is the newest installment in the Planet of the Apes franchise, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The film, directed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield), picks up 10 years after Rise of the Planet of the Apes, in which a simian virus has spread and killed off most of the Earth’s human population.

Caesar (Andy Serkis) and the gang, who escaped captivity and fled into the redwood forests north of San Francisco, California, have created their own colony in which he is the prestigious leader. It had been some years since the apes had last seen humans until Caesar’s son Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston) and Rocket’s son Ash (Larramie Doc Shaw) stumble upon a group in the forest that had been surveying a dam. The encounter results in Ash being shot and Caesar showing up to advise the humans to return to the city and never enter ape territory again. Within the city the surviving humans, who appear to be immune to the ALZ-113 virus, have also formed a colony with Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) as its leader. They have managed to maintain a decent standard of living with little resources, but time is running out on their source of energy. The dam becomes the human colony’s final option to provide energy so that they can remain hopeful in their attempt to restore life to the way it was before the outbreak.

At this point the movie’s greatest element, fear, becomes prevalent. Both the apes and the humans are not only held back because of it, but they are also motivated by it. It causes both sides to act irrationally. For apes, their leader Caesar is cautious. He shows the humans mercy because he senses their desperation and also fears retaliation. He is confident that the apes would win a war against humans, but he is wary of the consequential loss of ape life. Why risk the lives of your fellow being when you can work toward a peaceful and harmonious existence? But for Koba (Tony Kebbell), one of Caesar’s top advisers, fear has made him aggressive. He fears that the worst that humans have to offer will soon be revealed and seeks retribution for the vile nature humans exhibited toward him while he was in captivity. For humans, misinformation has caused some to believe that apes are soley responsible for the virus that wiped out most of their family and friends. This has led to them fearing the very presence of any ape. They also believe apes to be violent in nature so there is fear of an imminent attack.

The social commentary this film makes is right in line with its many predecessors (minus Tim Burton’s 2001 remake). We live in a society where fear is a driving force. Fear can only have a negative effect. It either paralyzes us or catapults us into a dangerous mindset that leads to destruction. Just like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes we see how fear of the “other” leads to war. If we had more compassion for others and worked toward reconciling our differences we would live in a much more peaceful world. Instead, we believe harmful stereotypes about one another, expect the worst and plan accordingly, and look for opportunities of vengeance instead of forgiveness. We think less of one another until we figure out just how similar we all really are.

I was skeptical going into this film because I anticipated an excessive amount of CGI. A week after suffering through Transformers 4, I was praying Dawn of the Planet of the Apes wouldn’t suffer from the same woes. The human characters actually played supporting roles in this film, but Andy Serkis was amazing as Caesar, easily making him one of the strongest heroes in any action film in the last few years. The apes felt very real throughout the movie and the combination of sign language, grunts, and spoken word among them made them compelling to say the least. It feels good when the use of action complements an already strong plot and captivating dialogue. That’s exactly what Matt Reeves has done in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. This movie allows you to think, but you can also kick back and be enthralled by an ape charging city gates on horseback while firing shots from a fully automatic weapon.

In theaters now.

Star rating: 4.5/5 stars

MPAA rating: PG-13 ( intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief strong language)

Running time: 2 hr. 10 min

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