Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the sequel to 2011’s sci-fi blockbuster Rise of the Planet of the Apes starring James Franco and directed by Rupert Wyatt. Dawn brings an entirely new director (Matt Reeves) and cast (Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke), with the exception of Andy Serkis, who returned to play Caesar. Despite shaking things up so, the film maintained the compelling themes and emotional depth of its predecessor. It wasn’t short on blow-em-up, shoot-em-up type shit either.
Trey proposed the devolution (of sorts) of species due to intelligence. The apes’ gaining intelligence and forming a structured society is accompanied by the ills that plague human societies: mainly the inevitability of war and the corrupting influence of power. The former, and the reasons for that inevitability, form what is perhaps the film’s most important set of themes.
The film delves more into the human race’s penchant for war and hatred, even when faced with the possibility of extinction. We see some of humanity’s worst downfalls reflected in both the human and ape camps. Koba and Carver are examples of figures who’ve occurred throughout history, fueled and blinded by hatred. So much so, that they were unable to let it go even for the benefit of those they care about. Koba didn’t start out that way though. His violent and vengeful could be rooted in his torture at the hands of humans, and then exacerbated by his newfound power. Koba broke the most important tenet of Ape Land: apes don’t kill apes. He threw another ape off of a balcony for defying him by refusing to kill a human. The ape-to-be-killed cited what Caesar would’ve wanted for the human prisoners: mercy. Despite the apes’ insistence on being different from humans, on abstaining from the hatred and violence that cripples humanity, Koba drags them down to that level, becoming those who he so hated.
In many people, there’s a degree of inherent disgust with the apes because they’re the only species whose intelligence can rival our own. Humans feel threatened by the apes who are already physically dominant. Now they have the mental capacity to augment that strength. That sense of being threatened is understandable to a degree, but it shouldn’t get in the way of reason or mercy.
The film sets out to remind of two very important lessons that get pushed further and further to the back of our minds since world wars are seemingly behind us and our understanding of science and technology increases ever more rapidly. War, though it hasn’t been waged on a global scale in well over half a century, is still devastating in ways that are difficult to even conceive. In the modern age, the exploitation of technology for the wrong reasons (i.e., as a tool of war or for profit without thought of the consequences) can have world-ending ramifications.
The film is dark in tone. There are few happy moments. And those are overshadowed by darker ones that follow. In the end, the humans and apes are unable to reach peace. Caesar says goodbye to Donald Sterling and receives his primate subjects, his expression weighted with the thought of the war to come.