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Movies, Reviewing

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: 5 Unanswered Questions (spoilers)

Against all personal expectation for myself, I went and saw The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. And you know what? It was actually pretty good.

But like any good action movie, I was left only with questions.

Note: I have not seen the prequel, The Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but I did read the Wikipedia article on the subject and I am still left with these questions. Please let me know in the comments if I am incorrect

1. What does Malcolm do?

The main character Malcolm (played by Jason Clarke) is a born leader with a natural sense of empathy for the apes. He wields a weapon and leads the group going to fix the dam to supply power to the human colony. The leader of the community (vaguely American Gary Oldman) lets him go off and do his little side missions. But what does he do? Is he some kind of military guy? A community leader? Some random guy who empathizes with apes and just naturally attains the respect and trust of potentially the last remaining humans?

2. What do any of the women do?

Yeah yeah yeah, applying the Bechtdel Test to a movie about bonobos shooting people up with machine guns makes me a harpy shrewish killjoy. (By the way, the movie failed.) But me being me, I of course read about a man getting very very irate about a woman joking about applying it so that’s all I thought about the entire time. Ellie, the one named human woman, (played by Keri Russell) is apparently a nurse. (I learned this via Wikipedia – I had assumed that she was a doctor, seeing as she was skilled enough to do major surgery on an ape, but letzbereal a lady doctor? lulz.) I think I caught a glimmer of one woman taking up arms and shooting apes, but it may have just been a slender man.

I mean, really y’all. They had all kinds of tangential people on all these missions. Couldn’t Extraneous Rando #2 be a female Extraneous Rando #2?

There is *one* singled-out female ape (who is not actually named but apparently she was in Rise so the Bechtdel Test kind of accepts her) and she plays more of a damsel-in-distress plot device than being an actual sentient character. And then, when the apes take up arms against the humans, they make a point to leave the females and the children back in the forest while the male apes go off and fight.None of this controversy over women’s ability to serve in the armed forces amongst apekind y’all: finding out that the women might be coming to the battlefield is a major motivator for the protagonist to try to stop the war.

3. Why are the humans so boring?

Simply put: The apes had better story lines, better dialogue and better acting.

I mean, hot damn: I have never seen such boring apocalypse survivors. Malcolm has no clear personality beyond being generically rugged and benevolent. Ellie is the expected mixture of sad and spunky that turns into blah. And then there’s the kid who draws in a sketch pad and doesn’t like his brand new stepmom so he’s, you know, emotional. Back in the compound, you have bossy Gary Oldman who puts a bunch of liquored up dudes transporting a Bundy ranch amount of firearms from Fort Point (which is potentially the scariest place in the world). And a one-dimensional angry Water and Power guy who is the only one able to fix the dam – until they have to lock him up/he gets brutally murdered and the team continues to fix the dam anyway thanks to the leadership of a man who, we have already established, has no actual, discernible skills.

I’m mid-way through Season 3 of Battlestar Galactica, and the constant debate is whether or not mankind deserves to survive. They’re flawed, yes, but the humans on Galactica are so damn interesting, you want them to persevere. The humans facing these apes? Not so much.

Their innate boringness could, however, be a brilliant cinematic trick played upon us. After all, no matter how much we could potentially want to root for these humans, at the end of the day they’re gonna lose. Perhaps their less-than-intriguing personalities were merely a way to make us feel better about their eventual demise. We leave complacent knowing that yes, we are witnessing the fall of the human race, but it’s okay because most of them are boring and/or awful anyway.

4. When do they blow up the Golden Gate Bridge?

It’s right on their poster. And why would the apes do this? I mean, maybe if they wanted to isolate themselves from the humans, but then they’re just stuck on the other side of the Bay. They clearly recognize that they are not yet technically savvy enough to create all of their own weaponry – they steal human guns because they know their ape-spears are not sufficient – so why would they ever destroy human infrastructure they can use to their advantage? It is tactically ill-advised.

(Although I suppose they were just leaving it for Godzilla. Ooh, upcoming summer blockbuster: Planet of the Apes vs. Godzilla. Plus the Pacific Rim sea monster. Calling it now.)

5. What BART Station are they at?

This was legitimately distracting.And I’m not the only one who was miffed by the inaccurate representation of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system. What the hell is “Market Street BART”? That’s like, four different stations dude. I sat there for like, 5 minutes trying to puzzle out exactly where they were supposed to be. Also, there wasn’t some a-hole trying to bring his bike on when it was clearly full and you’re not supposed to have bikes in the first car anyway and dude, are you really gonna stand on the left side of the escalator in the middle of rush hour? I can believe the whole killer apes part, but that particular BART station was just pure fantasy.

Ron Harper Wayne Foster Zina Bethune Planet of the Apes 1974

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