Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
Directed by Matt Reeves
Finally a director that gets it. Starting with the traditions of The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, countless Sci-fi films from the 50s, and continuing with Star Trek (original series), 2001: A Space Odyssey, and of course, Planet of the Apes, sci-fi has always been about more than the surface story. There has always been a layer of socio-political commentary underlying any good science fiction story, one that asks tough questions about human existence and society as a whole, one that often leaves us with more questions than answers. To me that is what makes a sci-fi story good (or any story for that matter). It’s what is missing from most of today’s sci-fi and horror films; depth. The first reboot of “…Apes” (2001) had no underlying theme at all. “Rise…” treaded lightly into the theme of animal treatment and testing, but didn’t drive too hard on the subject (perhaps afraid to offend future advertisers).
Matt Reeves pulled no punches here, making “Dawn…” worthy of sharing the title namesake of the Pierre Boulle novel and the original series of films. The question here is about the responsibility of a leader sending his people to war, the inherent benefits and problems of compromise, and the question; can a war be avoided once a conflict in interests has arisen? The story covers both sides evenly, diplomacy vs declaration of war, and doesn’t force an opinion to which is better or worse, but it sure does get the conversation going. It is interesting that the film is about the Apes’ story and the humans are almost a secondary plot. Apes living in a delicate harmony must decide how to deal with the encroachment and danger of mankind. Most of the action is in the last half-hour, but the story is engaging and kept my interest from the beginning.
I have to commend the writers, Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver, as much as Reeves for the kind of “Apes” film that I would actually recommend for its cerebral stimulation as much as its visual experience. If this film doesn’t get you thinking about the responsibility of war, then you’re just not the type of person that likes to bother with the bigger questions of the human condition. But that’s what makes a great science-fiction film and this film is one.
A seriously good sci-fi film with a strong moral and socio-political message, worth watching for those looking for a film with depth.
I give it 5.0 marvelous monkey’s out of 5 on the scale of chattering chimp flicks!