Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) – movie review

dawn-planet-of-apes- war scenes

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

 Directed by Matt Reeves

Andy Serkis
Toby Kebbell
Jason Clarke
Keri Russell
Gary Oldman 

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 dawn-of-the-planet-of-the-apes posterhard 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!


Rise of the Planet of the Apes – (2012) – movie review

Rise of the Planet of the Apes – (2011)

I was truly disappointed with this movie. What, did the apes take a vow of non-violence? Are the apes supposed to be more humane than the humans? Or was this just the best way to get a G-rating? I was expecting an amazing, violent, destructive, uprising – you know – Civil War type stuff. That is what I wanted, that is not what I got.

Not to be morbid, I know it was a horrible incident – but we’ve seen what a full grown chimpanzee is capable of doing. The unfortunate occurrence in Connecticut a few years back should be a strict warning; we should be afraid of wild animals! Not coaxed into the mindset that we can reason with them or that they will have any compassion for us – not even smart ones.

The first part of this movie was interesting enough. A young scientist, (James Franco), saves a baby chimp from his own genetic engineering research project. Watching Caesar, the chimp go through his steep learning curve, accumulating lessons rapidly and responding to these lessons, then, teaching the other primates – made for some interesting film study. Caesar’s expressions and presence were definitely a marvel of CGI combined with the acting/expressions of Andy Serkis. However, after being treated badly from his captures, you couldn’t wait for Caesar and his new found army to bust out of those cages and wreak havoc upon the populous. When it finally happened it was like a G-rated prison riot. The one person that does get killed was by accident. Then they moved out of the complex and decide, we’ll break cars but not people. They caused a big traffic jam on the Golden Gate Bridge – so what?

Are we supposed to believe that more intelligence yields less violence? If mankind is the case study, then the theory does not hold up. Superior intelligence may eventually tell us that the most important survival aspect is to neutralize a potential enemy swiftly and formidably in order to attain self preservation (and by neutralize, I mean kill). In the original 1960’s – 1970’s franchise, you always felt the threat of violence from the apes. They were physically more powerful, and since they were intelligent, as a human, we had lost our only advantage over them. That is what gave the films a stark impact, what made the films thought-provoking, and what created the anxiety and suspense while watching them. However, after watching this film I would put it in the same class as Free Willy – not necessarily bad but not what I would have liked to have seen.