Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
The motion-capture technology is
really astounding, especially in 3-D.
However, there are many genteel moviegoers who
will not go see either sci-fi or anything violent, much less apocalyptic
fantasy, so these will need a more extensive introduction:
Sometime in the very near
future, there’s a breakthrough in ape research, as a lab in California has
figured out how to enhance their intelligence and communication skills, but
unfortunately, accompanying the new technology seems to be this dreadful new
plague, called “Simian Flu,” which sweeps the globe at such a rapid pace
that civilization as we know it just completely breaks down, as the
earth’s entire population is nearly completely wiped out.
They never did find a cure.
There were only isolated pockets of individuals
who did not seem to be affected, such as in the rubble of what used to be
, but these meek ones inherit an earth that is literally only
a ruined wreckage of what they knew before.
Meanwhile, the ape population,
now set free in the suddenly-abundant open spaces outside the city, builds
up a colony with a very distinct hierarchy.
Caesar (Andy Serkis) is unquestionably the
Alpha Male, and he must occasionally demonstrate his physical prowess to the
other males in order to maintain his absolute authority.
But he is also intelligent enough to rule with
thoughtfulness and compassion, and to demonstrate “family values” to the
other apes. He
genuinely loves his “wife” and “kids,” and takes his older son on
hunting trips to teach him the ways of surviving in the wild.
Caesar also remembers with fondness his early
years, when he was raised and trained by humans, so when the apes encounter
a human colony he is not afraid of them.
In fact, he tries to help them, once they get
over their astonishment that he can actually speak to them (though most of
the time he uses sign language with the other apes).
In particular, Caesar befriends
Malcolm (Jason Clarke), an engineer who’s attempting to get the broken dam
up and running again, to provide electricity to the humans, who are rapidly
running out of fuel. The
apes are actually surprised that there are any humans remaining, because
they haven’t even seen any in a couple of years, and it’s been 10 years
since the great cataclysm that toppled them from their reign over the earth.
Malcolm’s wife Ellie (Keri Russell) even
helps Caesar’s wife with a post-partem infection (fast-acting
antibiotics?), so a new era of cooperation between the two societies is on
This is where the movie becomes
It seems that there are those in the human
community who do not trust the apes, and don’t want any détente, just as
there are those in the ape community who don’t trust the humans, and would
just as soon wipe them out as try to co-exist peacefully.
Both Malcolm and Caesar do their very best to
enlist the support of their respective rival factions, but alas, the
renegade elements prove to be too powerful.
It’s just plain easier to declare war than it
is to try to maintain an uneasy peace.
And that, of course, is the great metaphor for
our times. Order
gives way to chaos. Diplomacy
is trumped by mistrust.
Reconciliation is overruled by revenge.
In the end, the apes and humans
display little difference in their natures:
both struggle to not succumb to their baser
instincts, which is easier than trying to rise above their natures.
Those of us in the business of pleading
religion will recognize the context.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is the
Minister at St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,