The Devolution Of Man
The beautifully visual book ended with the solitary deep piercing eyes of an ape filling the screen, both before and after the journey they have endured, during this next chapter ‘Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes’ directed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield). They may be CGI eyes constructed by the incredible virtual digital god hands at WETA, but they contain more soul/life and humanity than I’ve seen in many a fellow human. And that is the resounding powerful effect/success of the movie, and of the best scfi in general, it’s human empathy and a striking warning to ourselves. Having evolved from apes, we’ve fearfully held onto our worst primal rage along the way, we need to move away from our apparent need for self destruction, and stop killing each other and everything around us.
It’s 10 years after Caesar has led the ape revolt and their escape to freedom. The man made Simian Flu has wiped out the majority of the world’s population, and the surviving embittered humans (survival rate being 1-500) huddle in city camps, living in perpetual fear of everything. Nature has peacefully reclaimed Her lands, forests grow, and a natural balance returns. The apes, still led by Caeser, live peacefully in sync with this balance, developing architecture, homes, society, schools, community and laws. The simplicity of ‘Ape shall not kill Ape.’ is even more poignant relative to current global conflicts where it seems obligatory ‘Man Shall Kill Man’.
There has been no sign of humans in Caesar’s tenure, so peace has maintained a veil of calm amongst the community, well except for Koba, Caesar’s right hand ape. In a classic case of nature/nurture, Koba has been brutalised and experimented on by humans most of his life. His fears feel very real, if miss guided, he’s like the hawk love child of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, but the swagger/intellect of Bush. Such is his affliction, he believes in preemptive strikes, cause that always works out well. Not.
The opening scenes of the daily life if the ape community is just wondrous to watch, the whole movie could have been just of this and I’d have walked away happy. Exemplary enacted CGI, you quickly forget the 01’s that are making up the images before you. Of course all credit to the story telling at hand to make this happen too.
Unfortunately for the community there’s a dormant hydro-electric plant near by that the sub species humans want to reactivate. They REALLY can’t live without their iPads. Paths must cross, and as people are involved, lives will die, alot of lives.
It’s most definitely feels like a middle movie, setting up for what will hopefully be an enormous third and possibly final act in 2016, which Reeves is on board to direct also. It’s almost Shakespearean in it’s movements too, as we slowly watch characters being forced into decisions that will ripple futile disaster for the many. Their conditioning or sheer situation forcing them to work against better judgement, both in the apes and humans. Each becoming more like each other as the movie progresses.
Once again, considering the amount of CGI presented, you quickly forget that, such is the level of work on show. The levels of humanity on show is staggering, pretty much always from the primate camp, which is wonderful to watch, then equally painful later on. The previous movie was a real surprise and wonderful considered intelligent movie making. This builds on that great work, and raises the tower much higher. Hopefully they don’t go all ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ on the final phase, as it’s the more simple ape moments that are the most powerful, and that we may even learn ‘Man shall not kill Man.’