Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Who’s the Hero?

Posted: August 11, 2014 by jperritt in Action, Drama, Sci-Fi
Tags: , , ,

dawn_of_the_planet_of_the_apes_poster_a_pDawn of the Planet of the Apes was an excellent film.  Personally, I have been surprised at how much I’ve liked the two reboots in the Apes franchise.  In terms of the sic-fi genre, these films have to be some of the best of their kind.  And, I would actually say that Dawn was better than its predecessor.  In my humble opinion, these films are taking a cult classic and turning it into a true classic, which is a rare feat to accomplish.

For starters everyone knows the special effects are phenomenal.  Even if you are one who doesn’t want to see apes carrying guns and riding on horses, you have to admit that the realism of the apes is unmatched by other CGI.  I will be shocked if this film doesn’t take home multiple Oscars in this category and possibly even some other Oscar nominations (Best Picture?).

In fact, you can tell the filmmakers are pretty confident about the special effects because of the opening scene.  They are so confident in their craft that the film opens with a close-up of Caesar’s (Andy Serkis) eyes.  They’re basically saying, Our special effects are so awesome, we’re going to open with a scene that highlights these effects.  And, we are going to get as close-up as possible so you can see how awesome they are.  The filmmaker’s attention to detail with the apes is something that should be highlighted and appreciated – ultimately worshipping the great Filmmaker behind the scenes.

The story of Dawn is fairly simple, but still intriguing and kept me immersed in a post-apocolyptic San Francisco.  One criticism was the fact that the apes believed that the human race was now extinct.  One ape remarked that it had been 10 winters since they had seen a human, however, the viewers discover that the humans are about 15 miles inland in San Fran.  How had the apes not seen them there in 10 years?  Wouldn’t they have run into each other at some point?  Even though this was a bit puzzling, it’s not a deal-breaker for me.

One aspect of the film I found to be interesting was the fact that humans truly weren’t the main characters of the film.  As I said, the opening scene of the film is the apes and this continues for some time.  Several minutes into the film, and I felt like I was watching a Discovery Channel special on apes…that were dominating the world and could speak.  It felt similar to watching Star Wars: A New Hope.  If you remember, much of the beginning of that film has little to do with humans.  The main characters are two robots fumbling through space.

The filmmakers did well to cause the movie-goers to identify with the apes.  We witness an ape birth early on in the film.  This causes us to see the apes as more human than they are, and it accomplishes our love towards this “race”.  We are also drawn in to love the apes through other relationships, like Caesar’s instruction to his son, for example.  The fact that I had to keep telling myself, They’re apes, was a real accomplishment on the filmmakers part.  However, I think most people bought into the lie this film sold us.

And, it is this lie that gets us to the real hero in the movie.  Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed this film.  I thought it was extremely well-done, and its excellence only assisted with the lie this film is selling.  That lie?  Apes and humans are equal.  The movie made them so human-like that movie-goers were rooting for them.  We were hoping that Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and Caesar would bring their mutual “Trust” to bear in the lives of their races.  Why couldn’t apes and humans learn to love each other?  Why couldn’t we accept the fact that there are some irrational/bad humans and some irrational/bad apes and learn to work together?

At the end of the day, however, the apes can talk as much as they want but they will always lack one essential aspect of their created being.  They aren’t image-bearers of God.  And, because of that, they do not have a soul.  I don’t care if they can ride a horse, fire a gun, bake a cake, or talk – they are apes.  And, while we may have bought into a joyous reality of apes and humans living in harmony, at least one human didn’t – Dreyfus (Gary Oldman).

Some people see Dreyfus as the villain.  The irrational human who isn’t progressive enough to imagine a reality of apes and humans frolicking in an open meadow.  But, he proves to be the only rational thinker when he exclaims, “I’m saving the human race.”  He realizes what we know to be true.  He asserts what was commanded in the opening chapters of Genesis.  That command?  Humans are God’s image-bearers and they are to have dominion over creation.  Therefore, as human-like as the apes could be, a future of equality among these creatures should go against our grain.

Even though we get sucked up into the story of apes evolving into a more intelligent species, we must not forget that mankind named them “apes”.  They are inferior.  They are not created in God’s image.  I am not asserting that there was some hidden agenda by the filmmakers of Dawn.  I’m not even saying that this message kept me from enjoying the movie (again, I thought it was excellent).  I’m just saying, a man risking his life to kill a bunch of talking apes is a hero in my book, as well as, The Good Book.


  1. CMrok93 says:

    Good review. It’s a very dramatic, rather emotional blockbuster that we don’t too often see in the summer.

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