Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Directed by Matt Reeves
Planet of the Apes was created by Pierre Boulle in the novel “La Planète des Singes”
I’m not a huge fan of reboots as a rule, this series is an exception. If two films can be considered a series, I am hoping for more (IMBD lists a sequel as ‘announced’ for release in 2016)
I was born a year before the original film starring Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowall. Growing up I saw all the films in the cinema and on TV. I was an avid watcher of the TV series that followed.
The Tim Burton 2001 Planet of the Apes starring Mark Wahlberg was entertaining and given the twist at the end I was willing to consider it to perhaps exist alongside the originals. Time travel can mess with plots after all.
Rise of The Planet of The Apes however clearly presented a new origin story, so is unquestionably a reboot. I thoroughly enjoyed that version, though I didn’t see it at the cinema choosing to wait for the DVD. I regretted not seeing it at the cinema. The only aspect that I didn’t like was that Caesar spoke at the end.
I’ll explain why and why I like this sequel.
Chimpanzees can’t talk. It is a scientific fact that they cannot shape the sounds to form human language. They are one of our closest relatives, Chimpanzees and Bonobos share around 99% of our DNA. However the shape of the throat and mouth is different and their vocal chords are situated higher. So no chimpanzee could learn to speak English, no matter how bright. Chimpanzees also have a vocal air sack that Humans lack, so if Chimpanzees spoke a language it is unlikely a Human could speak along.
To simplify things I’ll refer to the two films as Rise and Dawn, to dispense with repeating ‘of the Planet of the Apes’ over and over again.
There are ten years between Rise and Dawn and the introductory explanation of what has happened between the two films explains much. The drug that made Caesar so much more intelligent than an average Chimpanzee in Rise was a test drug to cure Alzheimer’s. The intro explains that the virus mutated and caused the deaths of nine out of ten Humans, many more died in the chaos that ensued.
The Apes speak to each other in sign language and animal grunts and wheezes. This is of course perfectly acceptable. Caesar was taught American Sign Language (ASL) in Rise and he met Maurice, the Orangutan, in that film who also spoke ASL. I don’t know if the signs in Dawn are ASL. I don’t sign in any language, but instinct is that perhaps it is not full ASL as it seemed few words were signed. Of course Caesar had a greater exposure to the drug so it is to be assumed it had a greater affect on him.
What I also liked about the portrayal of the Apes was that some of the body language used along with the other communication was genuine Chimpanzee. Chimpanzees ask for peace by bowing and extending an arm and apologise and make up by shaking hands. These gestures were clearly seen several times. One error I spotted was when an arm was offered to an infant to invite him to be carried, it is usually a leg that is extended.
One really pleasing aspect of all this is that we the viewer are able to connect the facts. The Humans in Dawn are shocked by the Apes speaking but none give pointless exposition to explain the above. That to me is good writing, we are supplied the facts and allowed to draw a conclusion.
So there was easily enough done by the film makers to assist in maintaining the suspension of disbelief. As a child it really didn’t worry me about ‘how’ they Apes could speak… oh, for those simpler days.
Andy Serkis of course is the go-to-guy for physical acting these days. I enjoyed his performance immensely, along with his colleagues.
The main themes of this film are trust and understanding – of course as with the original films racism is present. In all the previous films though there have been some, among both Human and Ape, willing to try to co-exist in harmony. Planet of the Apes is as much a commentary on our ability to live in peace among ourselves as anything else.
Rather than end on that rather sombre note – here is a public information warning (from the fictional world of the films) regarding Simian Flu.