I believe watching movies can help us reflect on current situations in our society. I recently watched the movie “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes”.
The first thing I do when watching a movie is to identify the motivations of each character. It is also useful to identify what power each character or group has.
Malcolm is the main protagonist in the movie on the human side.His goal is to get the dam working again to provide power for the humans but also work with the apes for peace.
Dreyfus is the main antagonist on the side of the humans. He refuses to see the apes as intelligent or capable of reason. He is prejudiced against them as animals despite evidence showed to the contrary. His drive is to provide power to the city as they are running out of gasoline so their main goal is to restart the hydroelectric dam. He has power because he is ex-military and started the human city. He has provided protection for others so they trust him.
Caesar is the leader of the apes and the main protagonist of peace in the movie, even more so than Malcolm. He is constantly asked to trust the humans despite the continued disobedience of his conditions, by certain individuals, mainly Carver early in the movie.
Koba is the #2 ape, antagonist and main war monger. He refuses to listen to Cesar’s leadership and calls for peace. He is influenced by his past of being a lab animal and having humans do many painful experiments on him. His main flaw is looking at everything from a self-centered point of view and holding on to hatred from his past to a group of people (scientists) and applying that hate to the new group of people who had nothing to do with that. He eventually resorts to nefarious means to attain his agenda.
The humans main power comes from technology and knowledge.
The apes main power comes from being physically stronger than the humans. One of the characters also mentions that the apes are stronger because they “Don’t need electricity.” They are more resilient to nature.
The movie starts with a brief review of the history of how the humans were negatively affected by the testing that had been completed on the apes. Then it moves to the community in the woods that the apes have established. Caesar and Maurice (an orangutan and close friend of Caesar’s) are discussing the humans and how they have not seen or heard of them in 2 years.
Of course, the next thing that happens a few apes wandering around the woods stumble upon Carver, who’s with a party of humans looking to restart the hydroelectric dam to supply power to the city. Carver immediately feels threatened, because he is afraid of the apes and lacks knowledge about them. He ends up shooting Ash, one of the apes. The rest of the apes descended on Carver and the rest of the humans, Malcolm being part of that group. Caesar uses his wisdom to allow the humans to leave peacefully despite Koba’s insistence of punishing the humans. The apes retrieve Malcolm’s notebook and bookbag at the site of the attack.
Pondering what to do next the apes decide a show of force is necessary. They march down to the human’s city in a show of force. They return the bookbag to Malcolm and issue a warning for the humans not to return to the forest.
What follows from here is some trust building and breaking among the humans and apes as a small contingent, including Malcolm, return to the apes to ask them to be allowed to work on the dam. Cesar again complies in believing that working together is the only way to help both species.
It is around this point it becomes obvious that most of the characters on each side are quite trusting of the other side and willing to work together. It is also obvious that there are some characters on each side who are irrationally afraid of the other side. Carver being the human and Koba being the ape who are most guilty. This is an important point that should be considered and applied to the world at large. Most people are good decent people, but there are just a few violent or ignorant people who choose to make the world a bad place.
Koba eventually steals a gun and shoots Caesar. He makes it look like a human killed Caesar. With no investigation he works the apes up into a frenzy and they attack the city. This is another very important turning point of the story. There is absolutely no investigation by the apes to see if it was indeed a human who killed Caesar. They take Koba’s word because he was the 2nd in command, but he is a twisted individual and has chosen to use his power for evil. Can you think of any situations in the modern world where people jump to conclusions way before any evidence has been shown? Have you ever done this yourself?
Meanwhile, Malcolm has found Caesar and learned that Koba was the real killer. He starts nursing Caesar back to and brings him back to the city.
During his attack on the city Koba shows signs of a dictatorship. He imprisons any apes that are still loyal to Caesar and his ideals of peace. At one point during the attack one ape refuses to kill a human, saying that’s not what Caesar would have wanted. Koba responds by killing that ape.
Malcolm finds Caesar’s son, Blue Eyes, and brings him to see his father. Blue Eyes shares the information that “Fear makes the other apes follow Caesar”. Does Koba’s reign of terror remind you of any point in history? How about any current regimes? Nazis? South Korea? U.S.S.R?
The end of the movie includes the triumphant return of Caesar to power and his ousting of the evil that is Koba.
Overall I thought this was a great movie when thinking of how it applies to current situations such as when groups of people react irrationally and with a lack of information.
It also shows how a few bad people can really affect humanity negatively by using misinformation and hate to lead good people to do evil.
I encourage you to start thinking in these types of terms both when you are watching movies and in your own life. What power do you wield? How do you use it to affect those around you? When you learn of a situation, do you jump to conclusions quickly or do you take time to think through rationally and understand what is really happening?
Ross Elliott – cover photo, Flickr Creative Commons