I love my grandchildren and this year, as a high school graduation present, my granddaughter Kathryn Gilbert came out to visit my husband and me. She also had time to visit with some of her cousins. Kathryn comes from a very small town in Wyoming. She was in for a cultural shock. While she tends to be quiet, we on the East Coast are anything but. As an extra treat, my youngest grandson, Nathan, was also able to spend the week with us because his parents were visiting their oldest son, Jimmy, who is a Marine.
We were able to spend some time with my granddaughter Katrina before she left on her own vacation to Arizona. What I enjoyed most about Kathryn’s visit was that we had a chance to talk about our writing. Kathryn will be going to college with hopes of teaching English in school and Kathryn, like Katrina and I, is a writer. She plans to one day publish the book she’s been working on. I asked Kathryn if she would like to do a review with me about a film we saw this past week, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. She said yes. This is part one of a two part post and we’ll begin with my take of the film.
Planet of the Apes
If you’re my age, you’ve probably seen the original 1968 film, Planet of the Apes, starring Charlton Heston as George Taylor the American astronaut who with his crew crash landed on a strange planet after spending thousands of years in hibernation. The film which is based on Pierre Boulle’s 1963 novel, La Planete des Singes, introduced moviegoers to intelligent gorillas and speechless, animalistic humans.
The film’s ending, along with Taylor’s shocking realization of his true location, is seared forever in my mind and I became an instant fan. Unfortunately, I found most of the sequels to Planet of the Apes a big disappointment, but at the time I wasn’t sure why. It was only after watching the 2011 Rise of the Planet of the Apes and this year’s blockbuster, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes that I understood what was missing from the earlier films.
To give my thoughts on The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, I do need to mention the 2011 film The Rise of the Planet of the Apes which was directed by Rupert Wyatt and starred James Franco as Will Rodman and Andy Serkis as Caesar. The 2011 film did what all the previous films in the franchise did not do. It allowed the movie audience to become one with an intelligent species that is endangered in the real world. Will Rodman (Franco) a scientist from the Sen-Sys Biotech Company is working on a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, a disease that his father is victim to…but we all know that the plans of mice and men often go astray.
The company does its research on chimpanzee subjects and the drug ALZ-112 makes one of the chimps, Bright Eyes, extremely intelligent, but she goes on a rampage. Due to this mishap, Will is forced to take her infant and raise it. Infant Caesar grows more intelligent each day, but he still has animal tendencies that Will Rodman must deal with. The drug may be a blessing for the primate characters of the film, but its side effect on humans is catastrophic. While the airborne disease becomes a pandemic nightmare for mankind, Caesar and his fellow intelligent chimpanzee friends escape to Muir Woods; their new home. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes changed the game plan on the franchise by telling the story from a new perspective. We began to identify with Caesar. He was the hero of the film; the survivor against man’s cruelty towards non-humans.
The 2014 film directed by Matt Reeves and starring Andy Serkis as Caesar, Jason Clarke as Malcolm, Gary Oldman as Drefus and Toby Kibbell a bonobo and Caesar’s second in command, focused on the lives of the primates living in Muir Woods. Have you’ve ever truly looked into a primate’s eyes. I do whenever I am at the zoo or when watching all the National Geographic documentaries about the dire conditions of a species, be they Chimpanzee, Bonobo or Gorilla. There is intelligence in those eyes and before we split off from our cousins millions of years ago, we were just like them and we have the DNA to prove it ranging between a 95 to 99% similarity.
In the 2014 film we see Caesar in charge of his troop of fellow primates. They’ve not only built shelter for themselves, but they successfully hunt for food. When Drefus (Oldman) the leader of a small band of human survivors living in a section of San Francesco sends Malcolm and his team to check for a source of water power to keep their city running, they encounter Caesar’s son, Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston) and Rocket’s son, Ash (Doc Shaw). Ash is injured.
The film deals with Caesar and Malcolm trying to keep peace between the two species, but mistakes are made by both sides and it’s not only the humans who thirst for supremacy; stupid choices are made by both men and beast alike.
Humans have this false illusion that we are above nature. It is because of this mistaken belief that our oceans are polluted; our air dirty and species around the globe go extinct at an alarming rate. We forget that the havoc we cause to nature will eventually come back to kick us in the butt. If we don’t respect nature and the other life forms that share this planet with us, then we are doomed.
When you look into the eyes of any animal, you see a comrade that has survived, like us, the evolutionary trip through time. They deserve our respect. See the movie. We are witness to an old story told through new eyes and it feels right.
Kathryn Gilbert’s review of the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes will be posted here on my blog next week.