How do you treat other animals? Do you treat them with affection? Or do you treat them as if you are superior to them? What meaning do you ascribe to the word ‘animal’? Do you see the word ‘animal’ as a division in organic life of which humans are a part of? Or do you see the word as a personality trait or a way of acting? This is one of the areas which you might ask questions about when watching Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (DPA) (Reeves, 2014). The other is that of what is really important for human survival in a post-apocalyptic world? Food, water, shelter, safety, weapons? Is electricity or ‘power’ really a priority? They say light and heat are priorities, but for how long where these even in existence in human society? Our history of lighting has gone from nothing to fire to torches to candles to gas lamps to electricity. Yet in a post-apocalyptic world electricity is a priority? If human beings could survive without electricity for most of their time on Planet Earth, than surely they can survive it when there is no easy access to power. Don’t get me wrong, I would review DPA as one of the best films of 2014, but these questions are more observations of the society that is portrayed in the film rather than criticisms.
DPA is a sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes (RPA) (Wyatt, 2011), both films are part of a reboot of the original Planet of the Apes series which were released from 1968 through to 1973. Of course, a remake of the first movie was also released in 2001 starring Mark Wahlberg and Helena Bonham Carter; it was directed by Tim Burton. The story of DPA revolves around a post-apocalyptic world after a virus created from experimentation on chimpanzees spreads across the world decimating human civilization. For the full story one would have to see RPA. DPA is set in San Francisco as a group of humans come into contact with an ape colony in the forest above the city (possibly the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Point Reyes National Seashore, although these are not named). The humans are out in an attempt to fix a dam nearby to provide power to the city. The apes were previously unaware of their existence prior to this meeting, and led by their leader Caeser, they offer peace with the humans on condition that they don’t trespass on their home. However, one human named Malcolm leads a small group (including his family) up to the apes, to ask if they could still fix the dam. Caesar has a history seeing humans as both good and bad, in comparison to some of the other apes and decides to trust and help them. Meanwhile another ape named Koba, forms a trio to go and see what the humans are up. They arrive near the golden gate bridge to find the humans preparing an assault on the ape home. Malcolm’s efforts to achieve electricity without war, as the other humans don’t trust the apes could be dashed, as the apes don’t trust the humans as well. But, through a bond of friendship which grows between the small human group at the dam and the apes, and most importantly between Malcolm and Caesar, peace may yet be possible. Will they learn that apes are just as alike to humans, as humans are alike to apes? Each side has people who believe this, while others don’t. Koba and Dreyfus want to fight for survival of each others species, with Malcolm and Caesar attempting to stop them in an effort to stop losses on both sides and develop peace because of the similarities on both sides.
The film clearly develops ideas and questions around evolution, the ability for animals other than humans to think and feel, and how either side see this or not. Family plays a key role in this movie as we witness this as being very important on both sides, but do the similarities triumph against the differences? Will those who see these similarities triumph against those who see difference? Witness a world beyond your imagination, as two worlds both alike in values, but not alike in appearance come together in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.