"Good versus Evil"
What You Need To Know:
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES would have been better with some judicious cutting. The beginning has too much exposition. Also, some dialogue is on the nose. That said, the movie gets much better as it goes along. The ending is terrific. Even better, the movie is a thoughtful exploration of redemptive moral virtues, including compassion, family and self-sacrifice. Regrettably, the movie contains some strong foul language and very intense battle scenes. So, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution to DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES.
(BBB, C, Ev, LL, VVV, N, A, MM) Very strong moral worldview stressing that there are good people and good apes and bad people and bad apes, with a general agreement that everyone has the propensity for good or bad, with very strong elements of compassion, dedication to family, moral virtues (especially apes should not kill apes), loyalty, with some Christian, redemptive elements such as self-sacrifice and a Cross symbol, all shown in contrast to the evil ones who violate the moral principles and get their comeuppance in one way or another, mitigated by a little bit of evolutionary hokum, but not as much as the previous versions, and it’s very refreshing to see good humans and apes relating; 12 obscenities, including the “f” word and several “AH” words, and one profaning Jesus Christ’s name, but the apes don’t use any foul language; lots of violence, some bloody, all the way from Caesar’s son being attacked by a bear during a deer hunt to apes shot, people shot, people and apes tossed around violently, bloody wounds, significant scars; ape characters Caesar and Cornelia hug and Cornelia gives birth to a baby; the apes are not clothed; alcohol use; no smoking or illegal drugs, but medical drugs are used; and, betrayal, rebellion, revenge, racism.
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES has a very strong emotional ending that makes the movie excellent and covers over a multitude of flaws. It’s the best of the THE PLANET OF THE APES movies since the original Charlton Heston movie in terms of getting away from the simplistic good apes, bad people message of the last few movies. There are good apes and bad apes, and good people and bad people in DAWN. Better, you have to choose to be good. For what it’s worth, the movie is one of the most thoughtful, in terms of exploring moral issues and the character motivations.
That said, the movie starts with a recap of the simian virus that almost destroyed mankind and launched a species of ape, gorillas, orangutans, and other primates who are mentally superior. It is now 10 years later, and the apes are living in the Muir Woods. Caesar and Maurice are speculating that there are no more humans left.
Right on cue, a small band of humans show up in the forest. They are looking for a hydroelectric dam, to get it started and bring power back to San Francisco. When they’re discovered by the apes, one of the humans shoots one of the apes. Caesar shows up with an army of angry apes. One of the humans, Malcolm, reasons with Caesar and convinces Caesar to let him go.
Koba, Caesar’s right-hand man and bodyguard, wants to kill all the humans. He convinces Caesar to go to the human territory in San Francisco and tell the humans never to go back into the forest. Meanwhile, Malcolm, knowing how much the humans need the power supply, takes his adopted son and Ellie, who’s become his wife, along with a couple of others, into the forest to try to convince Caesar to let them start the dam.
Koba, however, is out for revenge. Eventually, he does something beyond evil since apes are not supposed to kill apes and make is appear to be the humans so he can start a war. When he thinks he’s got Caesar out of the way, he leads a war against the humans. His counterpart among the humans is Dreyfus, played by Gary Oldman, who wants to annihilate all the apes. However, the apes are so smart that they seize the armory and start using the human weapons.
Malcolm and Ellie, with some compatriots, search out Caesar to try to bring peace and stop the war. Will they succeed?
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is more than a popcorn movie. It is a thoughtful exploration of moral virtues and the fallenness of men, which in this case, includes the sentient apes. It stresses many moral virtues, from family to compassion to courage to self-sacrifice. Also, Malcolm at least seems to possess all the attributes of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit. There is intense evil in the movie, manifested in Koba and to a lesser degree in Dreyfus. Also, some of the battles are way too intense for many people. Regrettably, one of the humans takes Jesus name in vain and uses obscenities that are unnecessary. Most regrettably is the movie could have been much better with some significant cutting. In the beginning, some of the dialogue involves too much exposition to bring the audience up to speed about what’s happened, but exposition makes a movie drag. Also, some of the dialogue and events are on the nose and on cue.
That said, the movie keeps getting better as the story develops, and the ending not only pulls at your heartstrings but also produces satisfactory joy and catharsis. DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is certainly much better than many of the action movies so far this year.