Movie Review: Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (Contains Spoilers)


Full disclosure: The reviewer of this movie is a member of the human species, so their judgement may be impaired by a bias towards the humans. We can’t ensure full impartiality but we will try strenuously.

The highly anticipated sequel to The Rise Planet Of The Apes was released this year to critical acclaim. With a nuanced narrative, ravishing visuals and excellent characters it fulfilled expectation and left us coveting the continuation of the story.

The movie begins ten years after the global pandemic of a lethal virus. With humanity decimated and with little prospect of a return to prosperity, a small group of survivors in San Francisco, who are immune to the disease are running out of supplies. They need access to a dam but it’s located in a secluded forest, where the apes reside, the small batch of survivors encounter the apes and shoot one of them. The leader Caesar placates his fellow apes but instructs the humans to leave, and they do momentarily.
However after consultation with the rest of the survivors, they determine that they have no option but to return, and eradicating the apes may be their only option. Koba, an ape who harbours great animosity towards the humans for previously conducting testing on him exhorts Caesar to wage war against the humans. Caesar refuses to yield to Koba’s demands and emphasises that war would undermine everything they’ve built and that he aims to defuse the tension. Koba has to defer to Caesar but it’s evident a resentment towards Caesar is festering internally. The apes congregate in the city and Caesar expresses his desire for peace but informs the humans that they are equipped to fight, if they are required to do so. He declares an ultimatum, which forbids the humans from intruding on ape territory.

Malcolm, one of the survivors is a cordial and sensitive chap and musters the courage to persuade his leader Dreyfus to allow him to embark on ape territory to try and cultivate Caesar and allow him access to the dam. The apes apprehend him but Caesar is receptive to his desires and permits access, under the condition that they relinquish their weapons. Caesar’s willingness to allow the humans access infuriates some of the apes, most notably Koba and causes a rift within the camp. One of the survivors disobeyed Caesar by surreptitiously keeping his weapon, this enrages Caesar who feels betrayed by Malcolm. Malcolm assures Caesar that he was unaware and attempts to earn his trust back by helping his sick wife. Koba then challenges Caesar’s authority and Caesar incandescent with rage at this act of insubordination subdues Koba but resists killing him abiding by the maxim “ape not kill ape”. Meanwhile the dam operation is a resounding success, power is restored and the lights of the city illuminate from afar; Caesar gives his stamp of approval to Malcolm. Koba seething with fury enters human territory, kills two men and purloins their weapons and formulates a scheme, reminiscent of a false flag operation. He shoots Caesar, ostensibly killing him and misleads the apes into believing it was the humans. The apes who are reeling from a loss, wage war against the humans and mayhem ensues. The only flaw to Koba’s seemingly shrewd strategy is he failed to ensure Caesar was dead.

Source – Meet the prejudiced rascal, Koba.

Malcolm, his spouse and child find Caesar and dispense care and attention. Caesar apprises them that it was an ape that attempted to kill him. They return him to his childhood house and Malcolm travels to the city, to recover some medical supplies. He encounters Caesar’s son Blue Eyes, who is disillusioned with Koba by his arbitrary use of power and convinces him that Caesar is still alive. When they return home they operate on Caesar and facilitate his recuperation. After reminiscing about old memories, Caesar devises a plan to topple Koba but it is fraught with danger, as they tussle atop a tower rigged with explosives. Malcolm tries to avert the explosion but his plea is to no avail, as Dreyfus detonates the bombs, inadvertently killing himself. Subsequently Koba falls and beseeches Caesar to save him but Caesar declares Koba is no ape and mercilessly lets him fall to his death. Malcolm notifies Caesar that the army has been deployed and that their arrival is imminent. They both express sorrow and regret at the unfortunate turn of events and embrace affectionately, before preparing for the inevitability of war.

Source – The endearing hug

This is a heartfelt story which illustrates the importance of reconciliation, opposed to war. While the humans are languishing in desolation, systematically killing a large portion of apes is morally reprehensible. Conversely, the apes while understandably indignant by the maltreatment they faced at the hands of the humans, exacting collective punishment would be odious and counterproductive. Caesar’s ambivalence is on display throughout the movie, he is grappling with the desire to protect apes while simultaneously trying to ensure humans can live peacefully too, which no doubt stems from his affectionate relationship with Will Rodman, who reared him. Both Caesar and Malcolm embody what’s best about their respective specie: Courage, empathy, self-awareness and an eagerness to live in harmony, contrasted with Koba and Dreyfus who let their lust for control and power blind them to the plight of others.
The futility of war was underscored flawlessly in this movie. Malcolm and Caesar both defied their internal prejudices and while war is set to ensue, the prospect of peace remains a possibility because of their adamance that love exceeds hate.