Friday, September 26, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of Apes & Minority Groups that Scare You

"Who is this Grumpy Cat you speak of?"
It was the last showing of the last day at the Ogden 6, and I went because of a bud's recommendation.

Let us be direct. Dawn of the Planet of Apes is an excellent sci-fi movie, doing what sci-fi does best: re-dressing our cultural faith and fears so we can see them better.

"Ape Not Kill Ape"
Our film picks up after the Simian virus has all but wiped out human civilization in a bioterror reminiscent of the recent Ebola Zaire virus breakout. Genocide through a lab-crafted virus has been an old SF staple, seen in modern zombie films I Am Legend and World War Z. It is nothing new to geeks. Heck, "death by bacteria" goes back over a century in SF fiction - even our NORMAL bacteria killed off the Martians in H. G. Wells War of the Worlds. So, wisely the director uses only a few minutes in an opening news montage featuring riots, Barack Obama and airline travel routes high-lighted in flaming laser red to show us how our modern human civilization falls. It is all-too-plausible, I am afraid.

But as one civilization falls, another rises, and in moments we are made part of the burgeoning culture of the now-much-smarter ape community: hunting, riding horses and building communities in the forest. [I confess, at this point I said out loud in the theater to the other handful of patrons "Hey - It's Dances with Apes!" Apologies to Kevin Costner.]

Speaking mostly by sign language - words CAN be said with difficulty by Caesar and his general Kolba but the writers wisely keep us watching and reading subtitles -allowed us to feel even more empathy for the silent-yet-thinking apes, orangutans, gorillas and chimpanzees.

They're not all the same you know! ;)

They even have an appointed teacher: Maurice, a huge orangutan who is seen teaching math and reading to the smaller child apes. Behind him we see the first Law on a rough blackboard: "Ape Not Kill Ape." Nice.

Ever since Cain killed Abel, it seems that murder of one's own brother has been the first forbidden act in the soul of man. Probably why we so love watching murder mysteries filled with adultery, theft and deceit, but not the other way round.

I can replace what you stole from me. I can get over you lying about me. I can even get over you cheating on me, but alas, I cannot get over you killing me. ;)

So it is sensible we start with it. Of course, it has a problem.

It says nothing about whether they can kill humans.

Therein lies the problem that escalates into a part triumphant, part tragic ending that, as you knew when you walked in, had to happen.

It's called Planet of the Apes for a reason, kids.

What I Honestly Admired
By tapping into a historical perspective and common human motivations of self-preservation and self-destruction, we cover in various scenes a whole host of modern failings in humanity, from the aforementioned bio-warfare / bio-catastrophe of a modified virus to shades of Zimmerman / Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida [yes, it is there - look for it] ; from Americanism Cultural Rule to shades of Islamic Fascism [you didn't miss that did you?], we find ourselves  - I found MYSELF - amazed at how much empathy the screenwriters gave to both sides.

You don't want THEM destroying your home, do you?

You don't want THEM killing your family, do you?

But one message was clear by the end of the: acting in fear just makes it worse. It shuts out hope and light and keeps old hatreds burning bright. Love and trust is the answer.

Caesar [played by the brilliant Andy Serkis to perfection using motion-capture] says it beautifully.

"Home. Family. Future."


"Caesar. Say. One. Thing!" "Yes, Caesar? What is it?"
highlight to see - &gt "Hail Hydra!"
In the end, his love for humans and apes saves his family.

He saves them from racial madness led by a dictator - the villain who shot him and blamed it on the humans who had hurt him badly. Thankfully, Caesar comes back from the dead to bring hope to his followers.

Sounds familiar, don't it?

Caesar means King - and he becomes a king who rises from the dead, he is able to stop the slaughter and save his own.

Apes. Humans. All who are good. These are the ones who get saved.

That sounds familiar, too.

Be good, but trust in the King who comes back from the dead. He'll save you from where the fear lies - inside.

Amen.