Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Director: Matt Reeves
Writer: Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver
Based on: Pierre Boulle‘s novel
Sequel to: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Cast: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Gary Oldman, Toby Kebbell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Kirk Acevedo, Nick Thurston, Judy Greer
In the ten years since the events of the last film, the world has changed a lot. Most of the humans have been eradicated by the Simian Flu, the few survivors struggling to get by. In the meantime the apes have thrived in the Redwood Forest around San Francisco where Caesar (Andy Serkis) built an entire community and refuge for the apes. But now humans have not only returned to San Francisco but also the woods, looking for an old dam and with it, electricity. But can humans and apes ever coexist?
I rather enjoyed the last film, despite some of the more stupid things in it. But this one here was too stupid: it lost me pretty quickly and after it lost me once, there was no going back.
The CGI in the film is mostly great. The apes look amazing and very real. There is one really cool pan over the battle, shot from the pov of a rotating top of a tank. That’s the good news. The bad news are the situation those apes are put in. There is only so much stupid I can go along with and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes crossed that line about five times over.
It’s the little things like why would they have horses at all? In the terrain they are living in, horses make absolutely no sense (I know that it’s because they will have horses later-on). Why have a scene where a human who I assume had at least some weapon training is unable to handle a weapon, but every monkey is immediately able to fire a machine gun without problem (I know it’s so that they an show an ape on horseback firing machine guns, which looks cool. Though not as cool as an ape on horseback firing a machine gun while jumping through fire, which also happens). How could a forest overgrow an entire freeway with huge-ass trees in only ten years?
But it’s also the big things like the racially extremely problematic correlation of the apes literally standing in for native groups in a “noble savage” kind of mindset (and the connection between apes and natives is unfortunately entrenched in Western societies where natives historically always were only a special breed of animal): they live happily in the woods, in tune with nature, only needing the smallest parts of what we’d call civilization. And then the white man shows up (and apart from a few black faces in the crowd and Kirk Acevedo we’re literally talking white) with his weapons and his war-mongering and “infects” the ape community with all of his shit.
That is just all kinds of ugh. It becomes obvious that there were practically no people of color involved in the making of this film (at least not when it comes to making decisions), or even people who reflect on their own internalized racism and try to counteract it. The main thing is that the hero, who just happens to be a white man, saves everybody with the help of the ape who is most like a human.
In all of that they usually are just far enough away from being outright racist by sticking to a rhetoric where there are violent elements on both sides that just basically overpower the peaceful people, but it’s still extremley problematic. And in the end it’s what made it impossible for me to enjoy the film.