Sunday, February 08, 2015

Best of 2014, #10: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

So it was a good year for movies, once again. So good, in fact, that my year end countdown swelled to ten, and since I always like to get these out of the way before the Oscars, that means I’ll be bumping the next meddler back two weeks.

I should warn you upfront that, for whatever reasons, the top half of the list is all sci-fi and the bottom half is all drama, lest you come to fear this week that I’ve officially gone all-geek-all-the-time. As always, I’ll be pairing each movie with a storytelling rule that the movie exemplifies. (And as always, I should also preface things with a list of the movies I missed, in this case Theory of Everything, Imitation Game and How to Train Your Dragon 2)

#10: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Everybody Only Wants What They Want: We had a lot of discussion about psychopathy last week (as we always seem to do) and debates about whether the presence of a psychopath is necessary to generate thrills. This movie gives us the resounding answer of no. Everybody in this movie can confidently justify their actions, and each is ultimately proven right, in different ways.

This is a heart-breaking fable of self-fulfilling prophesies: if you’re trying to protect your community from existential threats, you will find enemies that prove you right, and if you’re trying to make peace, you will find allies to prove you right. If your community tries to pursue both paths at once, a tragic chain of consequences can occur, in which the warmakers doom the peacemakers and the peacemakers doom the warmakers. The greatness of this movie is that we see both sides of this debate on both sides of this war, and we are unable to entirely disagree with any of these four factions.

Tomorrow: More dystopia!


j.s. said...

I agree that this film is good and remains underrated and perhaps too quickly forgotten among this year's crowded field. The cutting edge VFX are some of the most convincing, tastefully executed and narratively justified effects I've seen.

Where this film falls short for me is in failing to create an equal counterpart to the apes' internal struggles and drama on the human side of things. The humans just aren't that compelling, their conflicts just not nearly as fraught as the apes' choices. And it's for that reason that I feel like this gorgeous, exciting film is still a notch below the first one in this reimagined series.

Matt Bird said...

I agree.

Anonymous said...

Going to have to actually see this I guess. Saw it at the movie store yesterday and skipped over it.