MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By 20th Century Fox
Directed by Matt Reeves. Starring Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the sequel to 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the first prequel to a 1968 movie that was remade in 2001. Has Hollywood run out of original ideas?
Not quite. This film is a very intelligent and original movie that can stand alone as an entertaining and exciting summer movie.
An opening montage sets the stage for what is to follow. Scientific experiments that have rendered apes super intelligent have also launched a pandemic virus (name the “simian flu”) that has wiped out millions of people around the world. One group of surviving humans are gathered in San Francisco, led by an autocratic mayor (Gary Oldman) who sends a research team into the Muir woods to repair a hydroelectric power station. As they venture into this verdant territory, they encounter Caesar (Serkis), the ape in charge, and the parallel civilization that is home to the evolving species.
Each group has individuals who are trying to build bridges of mutual understanding and others who would rather just declare all out war. Caesar remembers with fondness that love that was shown to him while he was a child; his second-in-command Koba (Toby Kebbell) carries on his face the scars of scientific experimentation. Malcolm (Clarke) is intrigued by a growing ability to communicate with the primates; Mayor Dreyfus sees his power challenged by the possibility of an ape invasion.
The story of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is as old as time. How do we handle the unknown stranger in our midst? Scripture encourages us to be open, since all of us at one time were strangers and exiles until we were invited into a loving community. From tensions in the Middle East to debates over immigration reform, we struggle mightily to embrace God’s vision of a Kingdom in which all are included.
That’s the message of this movie, but it works quite well as an incredible feat of filmmaking. The motion capture CGI that renders human actors as apes is stunning, with Andy Serkis delivering an Oscar-worthy performance. The cinematography and musical score add to the overall quality of this production.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is simply a great time at the movies that deserves to be seen on the big screen. The film is fine for children 3rd grade and older (younger children will be disturbed and confused), although language is always a judgment call for families. When in doubt, watch the film first before taking the kids. Hopefully, this will be a great conversation starter for thoughtful discussion and reflection.
Three halos: An entertaining science fiction film with something to say about the things that draw us together and the things that keep us apart.
One pitchfork: PG-13 swearing; acts of violence and injustice.
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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