Sunday, July 13, 2014

Planet of the Apes

When I went to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes two years ago, I had very low expectations.  I am definitely not a fan of James Franco and the premise of the film didn't interest me very much.  It turns out that I loved it.  I became very emotionally involved in Caesar's (the chimpanzee rescued by Franco's character) plight which, in turn, made me question the ethics of animal testing.   I love a movie that is both entertaining and thought-provoking!  So, even though I was extremely tired from a leadership conference (and driving home for six hours), I just had to see the sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Friday night!  It is a great movie, one of the best I've seen this year!  The virus used in the first movie has decimated the population leaving a small colony of survivors in San Francisco.  Caesar has become the leader of a community of apes in the Muir Woods just outside the city.  A group of survivors travel to the forest hoping to get a hydroelectric dam working to give the colony electricity and encounter the apes.  Caesar reluctantly allows this group to work on the dam and they bond with the apes but Dreyfus, the leader of the colony, doesn't trust the apes and secretly arms the colonists.  Koba, an ape who was a test subject and tortured his whole life, hates the humans and challenges Caesar's loyalty.  This leads to confrontations between the humans, between the apes, and between the apes and humans.  Everything I loved about the first movie is even better in this one.  I was even more emotionally attached to the apes.  The scene where Caesar's mate gives birth to a baby is tender and beautiful (I almost cried) and I loved the scene where a teenager working on the dam reads a book to Maurice, an orangutan.  In the last movie, my sympathies were so firmly with the apes but in this one I was conflicted.  As Caesar learns, there are good apes and bad apes and there are good humans and bad humans.  Dawn made me think about the notion of diplomacy (particularly salient in light of recent events in Israel) and how easy it is for extremists to undermine the work of leaders.  Finally, the storytelling is incredible.  The tension builds and builds until the epic showdown (which is not what you expect) and, while the special effects are dazzling, the plot is what held my attention.  Go see this movie!

Note:  I've heard a rumor that a third installment is in the works!  Great news!

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