There seems to only really be two types of reviews for Dawn of the Planet of The Apes, the sequel to the reboot of the seminal Planet of the Apes franchise. Based on whose opinion you’re reading the film, directed by Cloverfield’s Matt Reeves, is either fantastic or an obligatory narrative roadblock on the way to a despondent Charlton Heston we know all too well.
I could spout my agreement with the former school of thought, but I’d much rather dismantle the latter brick by brick.
The primary thesis of Apes’ aforementioned detractors is that knowing the titular Planet of the Apes looms somewhere in the future of the film’s mythology, which most viewers more than likely are aware of, removes any sense of tension or immediacy from the latest film in the franchise. Which is to say that Andy Serkis’ phenomenal performance as the hyper-intelligent chimp Caesar is rendered impotent because of cultural familiarity with the twist finale to the original 1968 film.
Aside from simply stating the absurd argument that a film nearly 50 years old somehow entirely negates the dramatic and technical achievements of a film that came out last week, I have three other irrefutable, rock-solid counter-arguments for such a notion: “The Rust Cohle,” “The Interstellar,” and the “Alright, Alright, Alright (Here’s My Actual Argument).”
THE RUST COHLE
We’re all going to die in the end. Does that squander the poignancy of your dumb birthday and/or Shark Week?
If yes, than you aren’t going to like any movie ever.
The argument that knowing the Apes’ future detracts from the events depicted in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is flawed at its very core. Not only is the film a sequel to a reboot, it’s a sequel to a reboot of a franchise that has set a precedent for not one, but two astronauts traveling more than a thousand years into the future as well as three apes traveling more than a thousand years into the past.
Not that any of that precedence for interstellar time travel is relevant anyway. Because Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a reboot. You don’t know what to expect from The Dark Knight just because you’ve seen Batman Returns.
THE ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT (HERE’S MY ACTUAL ARGUMENT)
Why should you bother with a movie detailing two parties at the brink of inevitable all-out conflict? Because Dawn of the Planet of the Apes uses that assumed inevitability to ask important questions: Is conflict truly inevitable? And if so, why?
For a summer blockbuster Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has a pretty pessimistic worldview: change begets violence, violence begets change. But is that cycle set in stone?
Dawn of the Apes chronicles the seeds of fear and hate as they grow and uproot even the most reasonable, altruistic intentions. It follows the smallest taint as it becomes an all-encompassing rot with startling ferocity. The tragedy of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes isn’t imminent war, it’s just how little it takes to get to the point of imminent war.
All too late it becomes frustratingly clear to the viewer and the protagonist alike that conflict is inevitable not because of some event in the film’s far-flung future, but because of the past and that unbending cycle of violence and change.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes uses viewers’ perceived forgone knowledge of its outcome to its advantage and rather than ending in a blazing summer exclamation, it leaves the characters and the audience with a devastating question mark.
What do you do in the face of inevitable hardship?
I don’t know.
But if you disagree with me I will beat you up.