Humans, simians face off again in ‘Planet of the Apes’

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Humans, simians face off again in ‘Planet of the Apes’

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The worlds of apes and humans collide when Malcom (Jason Clarke) and his team of explorers wander into the animals’ territory to locate a defunct hydroelectric dam that will hopefully give power to their city. Provided by 21st Century Fox Korea

From King Kong to Godzilla, a revision of a classic film has the burden of balancing the new while holding onto the film’s original philosophy.

It’s by no means an easy task as new knowledge often quells old fears and inadvertently wipes away the premise of the film.

Some adaptations veer so far off the path that it’s hard to see any remnants of the original, while others play out in a way that is too similar to the first.

In that regard, Matt Reeves’s “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” should be applauded for his adherence to inter-species conflict while shaking things up by magnifying the ugly truth about humanity in these modern times.

Against the backdrop of an all-but-destroyed San Francisco, genetically enhanced apes and humans coexist in segregation.

It’s only been a few years since a deadly virus - simian flu - killed millions and resulted in the apes’ escape into the wilderness, away from the cruel clutches of the humans that had mistreated them for centuries.

Deep in the jungle the apes have a neat little commune, complete with a social hierarchy and civic duty.

Alpha-male Caesar (Andy Serkis) calls the shots, and although he is the sole ruler, his judgements are wise, selfless, and despite his demeanor, he is an advocate for peace - much to the annoyance of his underling Koba (Toby Kebbell).

By contrast, humanity has no power, both figuratively and literally.

The two worlds collide when Malcom (Jason Clarke) and his team of explorers wander into the apes’ territory in a bid to locate a defunct hydroelectric dam that will hopefully give power to their city.

The arrival of the humans sets off unrest among the apes, in a similar way that smart monkeys, or any other life form for that matter, have made humans uncomfortable in other films.

Both sides are equally scared and unprepared, and while the apes have physical prowess and the dam as their claim, the humans have guns.

As the “Planet of the Apes” series has always done, humanity’s primal fears and its manifestations are examined through the use of monkeys.

The film is chock-full of references to environmentalism, prejudice, the perils of technological advances, as well as the devastation of nature and the role that humans played in it.

It’s clear from the movie that humans are their own worst enemies.

But there are bad monkeys, too. Koba is singled out as a villain who at least has a justifiable defense founded on a life spent in cages and being tortured.

Although Koba is cruel and conniving, it’s difficult not to get caught up in his past and his vendetta against humans, all the while sensing his eventual demise.

As much as the humans are depicted as selfish imbeciles, the simians and their organized community is shown favorably.

Caesar, portrayed by Serkis, is wise and gentle with the strengths of both brute and man. There just isn’t a human counterpart of the same zeal, wisdom and empathy to rival Caesar.

From the opening sequence that begins with the apes, it’s hard not to feel more for these creatures that various critics have described as being more monkey-like than in previous films.

But that’s just skimming the surface. Rather than the apes, it is the humans who behave erratically and violently, often to the detriment of their own kind, and who show their degeneration as a group.

As seems to be the trend among Hollywood sci-fi films of late, the film seems to say “I told you so” in a roundabout way by pointing the finger at humanity’s self-imposed doom.

The notion of firearms that is presented in the film is also interesting as it was the humans’ only leverage before the apes seized control.

The way that these people make the trek to the forest with sticks in hand and with the apes looking down on them from the vines, it’s hard to determine who really is the weaker species.

Or to put it another way, which one is more human?

By CARLA SUNWOO [carlasunwoo@joongang.co.kr]




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