Untrusting Neighbors: Dawn of the Planet of The Apes and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

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In the near future, two neighboring groups struggle to co-exist in the land around them. Mistrust, betrayal, resentment, and fear plague both sides as certain members of the group try to find a way to co-existence and peace and others work to disrupt. One side has lived under the oppression of another. One side is all-too-aware of its previous frailty. Is this the plot to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes? Or the current conflict between Israeli and Palestinian forces? It’s both. And yet, not really. It is striking though how particularly resonant the plot of Dawn is to one of the worst modern day conflicts in our world.
Dawn picks up some years where Rise of the Planet of The Apes left off. A virus has spread across the globe killing off nearly every human civilization imaginable. A small remnant still exists in the city of San Francisco led by Dreyfus (Gary Oldman). They are nearly out of power though and so a group of scientists and engineers treks across the Golden Gate Bridge to try and restore hydroelectricity to an abandoned dam. The group is led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and a few others. A surprise run in with a talking ape in the Sequoias of Muir Woods however leaves the humans speechless and one ape dead. The apes, led by the terrific Cesar (Andy Serkis), warn the humans to never come back. Both sides retreat and the talk turns to what action each side should take. Some say war. Other co-existence. Cesar wants to exist with the humans, as does Malcolm with the apes. Is such a thing possible?
Cesar has experienced the kindness of humans while most of the other Apes, like the ferocious and gashed Koba, have only experienced torture and experimentation at the hands of humans. Likewise Malcolm sees the apes not only as a threat or as animal brutes, but as equally intelligent allies. Some of the other humans however take a less than favorable view of the apes, mocking them or wishing for their annihilation. Is there a path through such conflict? I won’t ruin it for you here but you could probably guess the answer.
Dawn is perfect in the way it pairs tense action sequences with an exploration of complicated (and close to home) relational themes of co-existence between species or groups. It is terrific science fiction with a plot that mirrors an array of relational and territorial disputes that have occurred in our homo sapien history. You could change out apes and humans with any number of former conflicts. The Israeli-Palestinian is undeniably the closest though and the movie portrays what is perhaps the biggest barrier to peace in any situation, forgiveness and an eventual willingness to let go of the past. As Cesar remarks towards the end of the film, “Apes start war. And humans will never forgive.”

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2 thoughts on “Untrusting Neighbors: Dawn of the Planet of The Apes and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

  1. ishankster says:

    I don’t know if my last comment worked because I didn’t know my wordpress password. Anyway, we met last thanksgiving in Bend. Just wanted you to know that I’ve kept your page open in my browser ever since and I read your updates. I think you’re a badass and I thought you should know. Here’s to our paths crossing again one day and to some good beer when they do.

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