Scoot: "Apes" movie has powerful message about human nature
by Scoot,posted Jul 15 2014 9:52AM
The original “Planet of the Apes” (1968) opens with an American spacecraft crash-landing on what is believed to be another planet, where humans are considered savage animals and apes rule the world. The audience was stunned by the ending, when there is a scene with the top part of the Statue of Liberty sticking out of the shoreline. That meant the American astronauts had actually been on Earth in the future – when apes ruled the land.
Each of the “Planet of the Apes” movies since 1968 have had profound messages, and the newest sequel, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” had several strong messages about humankind.
With the intense sensitivity over the gun rights/gun control debate in America, I was shocked that I didn’t read about what I saw as a powerful anti-gun message in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” It was an anti-gun message, but it was really more about how humans use and need guns, rather than a promotion of stricter gun control.
In “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” the majority of the human population has been wiped out by a simian virus. After lab experiments advanced the ape brain, some apes escaped and formed a civilized society in the forest outside of San Francisco.
A small colony of humans that had been living near the decimated San Francisco ventures into the forest in an attempt to restart a power plant to restore limited power to the city. On their mission into the forest, the humans encounter the apes, and are stunned by their ability to communicate and even talk. The apes are shocked and threatened by the presence of humans.
The fear and distrust the apes and the humans have for each other is a metaphor for current-day tensions between groups. However, the apes were more civilized than the humans. The apes claimed that apes do not kill apes the same way humans kill humans.
A test of the apes’ civility came early in the story when a human shoots and kills a young ape. The very sound of a gunshot was so foreign to the society of apes that they immediately reacted with fear of humans with guns threatening their world. Some of the apes demanded revenge and expressed disdain for the humans, and the humans became fearful of the possibility of an ape invasion, while other apes tried to promote a peaceful coexistence. The apes lived by the creed that humans kill each other – and apes do not.
When a human says to another that just the sight of apes makes him sick to his stomach, the audience is immediately drawn into the judgment that is so palpable in today’s world.
“Dawn” vividly illustrates many of the flaws in humans. What stood out to me was the obvious need humans had for guns, and how much the humans were in awe of the apes that could exist and function as a society without guns. This was a strong anti-gun message – but it was not about controlling the sale of guns as much as it was about the need humans have for guns, and our willingness to use guns against each other.
In order to protect their society, the apes did invade the human colony in San Francisco, which was a set actually built on Common St. near Tulane Ave. in New Orleans.
It was also interesting to pick up who was to blame for the world as it existed in the movie. Some of the apes that had been in research facilities and were the subjects of experiments by humans were still bitter and resentful and wanted revenge against the humans. Some of the humans blamed the apes for the virus that destroyed most of humanity.
The ape that had been held in research captivity obtained a gun from the humans, and shot the ape that promoted peace with humans. I can think of numerous people who have been shot because they stood for peace. That particular ape acted like a human.
While there were some apes that hated humans because they had been the subjects of experiments, the general message was that humans do not forgive – apes were more compassionate.
The sets were outstanding – as were the effects and the make-up, which gave a distinct look to each of the primary ape characters. I admit that I am not a sci-fi junkie, but “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” was so well executed that I was engaged from the opening moments of the movie.
Sci-fi fans will love “Dawn,” but the sci-fi ambience does not distract from the amazing human story and message. “Dawn” is about how humans need guns. It’s about hate, forgiveness and love. It’s about seeing others who are different for who they are – not what they are. I walked out of the movie inspired by the story and message, but sad that it accurately defined the evil side of humanity.
A symbolic scene in the film showed an infant ape bonding with humans and it was obvious that the message was that the ape had not yet learned to fear humans – he was not prejudiced.
Another strong message emanated from the apes ability to be happy without electricity and modern technology. The humans needed power and the apes realized that being able to live without power and technology made them stronger than the humans.
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” was entertaining – but presented compelling messages about human flaws. Humans murder each other – animals do not. Humans hate – animals do not. Humans instinctively seek revenge against one another – animals do not.
The most powerful message of the movie is that humans should be more like animals – less hateful, less judgmental, less in need of guns to maintain a civilized society and less in need of technology to be happy.
So the next time someone says you are “acting like an animal” – take it as a compliment!