Having just read a review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes on Spiked I have to warn those of you who have yet to see this mawkish, hackneyed themed piece of unbelievable tosh – don’t bother. The Spiked review calls it “a masterclass in blockbuster filmmaking, merging memorable characters, excellent performances and an enticing story (in) a multiplex-friendly form.”
The film is number five in the genre. It represents life after an epidemic has wiped out most humans but left the apes and at least some other animals intact. The apes are led by a wise, fearless and selfless man “Ceaser” but his lieutenant is a nasty piece of work, Koba (Stalin’s name, geddit?).
The apes have blossomed and have become carnivorous, horse riders who hunt deer rather like earlier hunter gatherers used to hunt animals by driving them over cliffs. Somehow they have become very numerous and are in highly peace-loving (Koba apart) tranquility. Many of the apes have learned to operate automatic weapons but are paid up members of the anti-gun lobby and forswear their use. They have an internal code “ape does not kill ape” but, rather like Communist Party members of old, when someone (Koba in this case) is to be eliminated first he is declared not to be an ape.
The humans are living in San Francisco, thousands of them with no visible means of support. But at least one of them knows how to hook up the power system and fix a broken hydro system and immediately the lights go on and 1970s rock music gets everyone a jigging.
Koba overturns Ceaser and incites the apes to go on the warpath against the humans, who have been trying for ever to make radio contact with other survivors to no avail. But just as they are being overrun by apes on horseback, firing captured machine guns they miraculously contact some other group of humans in the far north who agree to come to their rescue. This is the cue for the announcement of the sequel as Ceaser, newly enthroned after overthrowing Koba and his imperialistic ways (for some reason the apes having prevailed over the San Francisco humans do not kill them all but hold vast numbers in captivity) foretells that ape has killed man and man will demand revenge.
Once again the stage is set for a familiar stereotype. The peaceful savage has his life transformed by the murderous, mainly red-necked westerner, and a titanic struggle can be choreographed and serialised for the years to come.