Friday, July 11, 2014
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes 
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review
RE.com (M. Zoller-Seitz) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review
Let's face it, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes  (directed by Matt Reeves, screenplay by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver and Mark Bomback based on the 1963 novel [amzn] by Pierre Boulle [IMDb]) like the original novel, the 60s-70s era movie franchise and then Rise of the Planet of the Apes  which rebooted the series for the current day, are ALL BASED on the _inversion_ of a horrible racial epithet:
The original novel and the Hollywood movie franchise that quickly followed were all created in the context of the post-WW II rolling collapse of the previous (white-dominated) colonial order as a result of the successes of both national liberation and civil rights movements of _peoples of color_ the world over (from India, to Algeria, to Jamaica / Fiji to the Congo to the Deep South in the United States). Given that only a generation before, white people of both Europe and the Americas had considered themselves self-evidently superior to the "darker" races, this collapse was experienced as a shock to many. With regards to Africans in particular, it had not been uncommon for white people at the turn of the 20th century to consider Africans (blacks) to be closer to the apes (which also natively resided in Africa) than to themselves. Yet by the 1960s, "OMG, the Africans were coming" to rule their own countries across the continent, "What was the world coming to?" This then was the racial (racist) hysteria in which first Boulle's novel and then the 60s-70s era Hollywood movie franchise came out. (Remember there were even "Black Panthers" (!) "roaming" America's streets at the time ...).
Why then resurrect this film-franchise now? Well, when we have _serious_ (in terms of power) American political figures like Sarah Palin _resurrecting_ American segregation era racist terms like "shuckin' and jivin'" to describe her piques with America's first (and presently ONLY, ... EVER ...) BIRACIAL President Barack Obama, well ... racism and racial fear is ALIVE AND WELL in the U.S. today.
Both the novel [Amzn] and the subsequent film-franchises [IMDb] take the racist epiteth "They're just Animals (Apes)" and INVERT IT ... Both imagine a world in which arguably "the Apes" are MORE THOUGHTFUL / CIVILIZED than arrogant (and mostly white) "people."
And so then it is here, in the current film, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes , set ten years after a human-made virus, but which (because it was being TESTED on chimps) came to be called "simian flu," had escaped from a laboratory and nearly wiped out humanity (the subject matter of the previous film Rise of the Planet of the Apes ). Two communities, one Ape, one Human, are presented as consolidating themselves, in the San Franciscao Bay Area -- the human community, in the post-apocalyptic remnants of San Francisco; the ape community, led by previously genetically engineered Caesar (played with help of CGI by Andy Serkis) in the Redwood forests north of the city.
Could the now _two_ "intelligent species," one (Human) radically diminished and the other (Ape) rising coexist? The Humans, tattered remnant though they are, remain _often_ stuck in their previous prejudices. The Apes, however, find themselves having to deal with their own memories / rivalries: Caesar actually had _good_ memories of Humans (a human family which treated him well, as genetically enhanced, he had learned from them how to communicate through sign-language and later even voice). On the other side, there was another Ape, named Koba (played with help of CGI by Toby Kebell) who only remembers Human (scientists) as having causing him excruciating pain as they experimented on him. Who to follow? The wiser, and more serene/happier Caesar or the more angry/vengeful Koba?
Much therefore plays out. And the Humans as well have a range of reactions to the surprisingly intelligent (and arguably ascending Apes). While MANY still cling to their pre-bio-apocalypse sense of superiority vis-a-vis "the Apes," others like Malcolm (played by Jason Clarke), his post-apocalypse girlfriend (played by Keri Russell) and his somewhat moody/perhaps still shell-shocked teenage son (apparently born before the apocalypse) seem to be more accepting of / perhaps even partially awed by the rise of this new community of intelligent Apes.
And as with the original novel [Amzn] and subsequent movie-franchises [IMDb], the film offers viewers much to think about as they contemplate and challenge within-themselves their inevitable prejudices in our world today. Good film!
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