Home > Index > Action | Drama | Sci-Fi | Thriller > Movie Review

Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Monkey Business

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Plot Overview

Dawn dawns pondering the darn damage created when Gen-Sys Labs', San Fran., Alzheimer drug ALZ-113 was tested on chimps. The chimps escaped to Muir Woods, and there followed civil unrest (Obama: “Know your evacuation route”) as a consequence of a “Simian Flu crisis.” A closeup of simian eyes introduces a new scene of apes in the trees on a deer hunt remin­is­cent of the bison hunts of American Plains Indians of old, where the beasts are stampeded over a cliff, but instead of using Indian sign language to communi­cate with, these hunters use American sign language, though truth be told it's pretty universal even with­out the handy subtitles.

The ape chieftain Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his eldest son Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston) are about to dispatch a fallen deer when a giant grizzly whose territory they've encroached on rears up threatening them. It looks like the end for these two monkeys, but Caesar's lieutenant Koba (Toby Kebbell) comes from nowhere to slay the bear with a spear (“Thank you, Koba”), and more rein­force­ments of apes are on their way, as well. Caesar remarks, “Think before you act, son.”

Back at camp Caesar asks wise orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval) if he thinks the humans are all gone. Maurice the mathe­matical wizard replies we've been in these woods for ten winters now, and for the “last two, no sign of them.”

A scouting party of humans stumbles upon a couple ape-hunters who try to intimidate these human inter­lopers and one of the apes gets shot. The monkeys hold a war council, but Caesar [in sign language] declares, “If we go to war, we could lose all we've built: [spoken aloud] Home. Family. Future.” He (“They're talking”) sends the humans packing: “Do not come back.”

Malcolm (Jason Clarke) the engineer will put to his fellow survivors that, “We're almost out of fuel.” He offers to return anyway to ape territory as “there is no alternative power source” to the defunct hydro­electric station there he wants to restart. His fellows allow him his “one chance for peace” but if his “hippie-dippy bull­shit” doesn't work, the rest will avail them­selves of their FEMA armory. Unfortunately, Koba has his own agenda contrary to his peaceful chief on account of a grudge held against humans for his captivity—he'd been experi­mented on. Before Caesar can intervene, “War has already begun.” “Ape started war; human will not forgive,” Caesar declares, setting us up for the sequels as we fade out on a closeup of his eyes.


I wonder if their worldwide catastrophe is not a manifestation of another real one hidden deep in our psyche, which bubbles to the surface, the FLOOD recounted in the movie “Noah”? The chimps here speak of “all we've built: Home. Family. Future.” There are actually three groups in this movie building home, family & future: the human survivors in S.F., the simian escapees in the woods, and a military contingent up north that the former contacted on the radio. Noah, like­wise, had three sons (Gen. 6:10), Shem, Ham, and Japheth, who were to build home, family & future after their apocalypse.

Critics say the whole Planet of the Apes franchise is an allegory of race relations. If we can make a corres­pon­dence of those three groups to race, we'd be in the money. Arthur Frederick Ide quotes the (non-canonical, but it was a contender) book of Enoch (Noah's great grand­father): “My Son Methuselah took for his son Lamech a wife, and she became pregnant by him and bore a son. And his body was white like snow and red like the flower of a rose, and the hair of his head white like wool … and his eyes beautiful. … Call his name Noah” (66–7). After the Flood there was an incident, Gen. 9:20-22, where Noah got drunk and was exposed in all his glory to his son Ham who viewed him “whose form and appearance are not like the image of man” (Dr. Ide 67). Noah's other two sons, Shem and Japheth, covered him up, Gen. 9:23. Ham had violated him in some way, Gen. 9:24, we assume by marking a graffito on his invitingly white body. Noah's curse puts Ham's youngest son Canaan in a position of servitude, Gen. 9:25. Noah's other two sons Shem, Gen. 9:26, and Japheth, Gen. 9:27, were blessed by Noah. Hodge (134) quotes “Bible Questions and Answers,” The Golden Age (July 24, 1929): p. 702.

     Question: Is there anything in the Bible that reveals the origin of the Negro?

     Answer: It is generally believed that the curse which Noah pronounced upon Canaan was the origin of the Black race. Certain it is that when Noah said, “Cursed be Canaan, a servant of servants shall he be to his brethren,” he pictured the future of the Colored race.

Hodge confirms the general knowledge that “As a general trend, Ham is the father of many peoples in Africa” (122). Dr. Ide adds, “Ham sired four sons: Cush (translates as ‘black’;) … and Canaan the youngest” (62).

In “Dawn” a privacy issue results from the initial apes-men encounter when Malcolm's son Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee) drops his satchel when forced to flee. The apes pick it up and later Maurice paws through its contents: a sketch­book, opening it up to look through it. Alexander has an artist's sensitivity not wanting his drawings viewed before he's ready to display them. Maurice has all his writing on a teaching wall for every­one to see. Humans are thus shown as having more refined sensi­bilities than humanized apes in the same way as did Shem and Japheth more than Ham the progenitor of the Negro races. The white artist keeps his art­work close; the black graffiti artist blazes his abroad. Such subtle differences are played with through­out the fran­chise making it ipso facto about race.

In the tense negotiations between apes and humans, Koba's newborn insinuates itself in the picture defusing it with his cuteness. That's like Noah putting Ham's family curse onto Canaan the littlest, making it easier to swallow, like a politician kissing babies to get votes. The two human groups in the movie civilians and military were integrated with each other, as were Noah's sons Shem and Japheth. Apes had first been in cages, then segregated in the woods, and finally integrated in part on account of the dam being there. Their history parallels that of the Negro: first slavery, then segregation, then troubled integration. So it does work as an allegory.

Prof. Stampp writes of the particular racial issue alle­goric­ally addressed by this film: (232)

  “A free African population is a curse to any country,” the Chancellor of the South Carolina Court of Appeals once flatly affirmed. “This race, … in a state of freedom, and in the midst of a civilized community, are a dead weight to the progress of improvement.” Free Negroes became “pilferers and maurauders,” “consumers without being producers … governed mainly by the instincts of animal nature.” [Catterall (ed.), Judicial Cases, II, p. 442]]

The free apes in the nearby woods are a “curse” to the San Franciscans. They are “a dead weight to the progress of improvement” inhibiting the humans from developing hydro­electric power. Eventually Koba and two confederates “became pilferers and marauders,” stealing weapons and whiskey from the FEMA armory.

One need look no further than today's [2014] newspaper to find relevant parallels. Ferguson, Mo., Michael Brown, 6 ft.in., 295 lb.—whom the media characterizes as a “gentle giant”—had a close encounter with a white police officer and got shot to death. Look at this movie to see a giant grizzly reared up or an ape with spear in lifted hand, that if the “gentle giant” is in the ape's or man's face, lifted claws or arms are counted as a threat not an act of contrition. He or his buddy was reaching for the cop's pistol. Once Koba got his hands on some weapons he was a danger to every­body. And that the black residents around Ferguson responded with “pilfering and marauding” is not a surprise to anyone anymore.

Production Values

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” (2014) is a sequel to “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” itself a reboot of the original 1960/70s “Planet of the Apes” series. “Dawn” resumes the narrative thread about a decade after the events of “Rise”, being set in 2028, ten years after the ALZ-113 virus along with civil unrest wiped out most of the human race. This sequel to 2011's “Rise” is the eighth installment in the “Planet of the Apes” film franchise and the second of the reboot series.

It was directed by Matt Reeves. It was written by Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver—the last two also wrote “Rise.” The series was based on Pierre Boulle's novel “La Planète des Singes.” It stars Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, and Kodi Smit-McPhee. Toby Kebbell did an excellent portrayal of the rebellious lieutenant Koba. Andy Serkis did a good Caesar the chimp leader. The rest merely held their own. Gen-Sys geneticist and ape whisperer Will Rodman played by James Franco showed up in archive footage.

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA) gave it PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief strong language. It's a bit long at run­time: 130 min. The music score by Michael Giacchino is haunting but dark. The CGI in “Dawn” is twice as good as that in “Rise.” The entire ape cast wore motion-capture suits obviating the necessity for elaborate makeup and costumes as in the first franchise. The animation-capture technology is a chief accom­plish­ment in this franchise reboot. The actors impressively morph into their primate personages tracking their human movements, body gestures and facial expressions with a nice veri­simili­tude. The CGI effects and action set pieces really stand out. This production rates high for quality sets, props, costumes, and special effects.

Review Conclusion w/ Consumer Recommendation

Before seeing this picture, I'd only seen “Rise of” and one of the original “Planet of,” but I was able to under­stand what was going on. It focused mostly on the apes which was okay. A deaf person, I would think, could easily follow the ASL, or read the large ape lips. It might not be so suitable for kids, but adults should like it. It's a way of presenting racial issues without requiring ack­nowledge­ment much less a position. It fits nicely into an established sequence.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Well done action flick. Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years. Special effects: Absolutely amazing special effects. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall product rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Hodge, Bodie. Tower of Babel: The Cultural History of Our Ancestors. Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Pub., 2013. Print.

Ide, Arthur Frederick. Noah & the Ark: The Influence of Sex, Homo­phobia and Hetero­sexism in the Flood Story and its Writing. Las Colinas: Monument Press, 1992. Print.

Stampp, Kenneth M., Professor of American History at the University of California (Berkeley). The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South. Vintage Books, 1955. Print.