Until the philosophy
which hold one race superior
Everywhere is war
Me say war.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) is an anti-war film and a monstrous enough global hit ($540m) to seriously study. This review will, by necessity, include SPOILERS. So, if you haven’t seen it, you can opt out now.
Allotting screen time to characters is a tricky business. There are precious few frames to develop people, particularly in our current ADHD digitally enhanced environment. (A moron seated across the aisle from me pulled out his cell phone three times during the screening, and yet I allowed him to live. I’m having to accept this schizo society that has grown up around us.)
The main human character in Dawn, whose name I can’t even recall now, lacked sufficient character development. He was a proponent of peace, and he had a son. That’s about all I can honestly say about him. Does that leave him 2-dimensional? That was a miscue.
The far more interesting character is the ape leader Caesar, who led the ape revolution in the first film (Rise of the Planet of the Apes). It is Caesar who must manage this new situation, an incursion by human survivors into the ape forest and territory.
The film starts with a standoff between a pair of ignorant humans and a pair of apes who stumble upon them for the first time. The humans are armed. The apes are unafraid. The most belligerent, arrogant human shoots dead an ape in cold blood. His character arguably gets more attention than the expedition’s leader, who then has to negotiate when their group is suddenly surrounded by a hundred apes with spears.
Caesar sees this murder, and he has to decide what to do with the wayward humans.
The human leader orders his own team to lower their guns.
Caesar opts to de-escalate the situation and banish humans from their forest. This call for a peaceful resolution will come back later. Not everyone prefers peace and co-existence. As a great and responsible leader Caesar also sends scouts to follow the humans back, so as to keep track of them and assess the situation better.
Caught between the need for justice and the need to establish clear territorial boundaries, the apes march their entire army to the gates of the human settlement in a show of force. Caesar returns a bag left by the humans, and he warns them to never stray into ape territory again. The line in the sand is drawn. Apes and humans cannot co-exist, and separation must be complete and non-negotiable.
Unfortunately, a power-generating dam lies in ape-controlled territory, and the humans want it online to power their civilization and inevitable resurgence. A war over resources hangs in the balance if a peaceful accommodation cannot be worked out.
Here the main, peaceful human character sets off to try and patch up relations with the apes. Another way is possible. It may be mutually beneficial to have power (electricity), but that is not the main point. It is a matter of peace versus war. Armed humans will never settle for being dictated to by apes, whom they see as inferior and as animals.
Here is the crux of the story.
This is not about a war between humans and apes, although that is a central facet of the plot. It is a story about racist warmongers, on both sides, who cannot co-exist, who cannot trust, and who resort to violence and atrocities in their megalomaniacal obsessions to prevail at all costs. These are not confined to one side or another. They can be found on all sides, and often very close to power.
With such seething hatred and the appeal to racist arguments entire populations can be manipulated toward conflict. This film has far more relevance to current reality than one would expect.