Tag Archives: Film Review

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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Gravity-It’s Not the Best Movie in the World, But It’s Pretty Darn Good

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If you’re like me and follow movies even in the slightest bit, you’ll know that Gravity has pulled off an impressive feat at the box office the last couple weeks and currently retains a score of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. Suffice it to say the movie has been received very well by critics and audiences alike.                    

            Now when I first saw the trailer, my first thought was “Hmm, that could be interesting.” Then the film began to receive all sorts of insane praise and my next thought was, “That movie? The one where two people are flung around in space by some sort of space shuttle crash?” How could it be that good?

            Well, it is good. The obvious problem with highly rated movies is the amount of expectation one can bring with them into the film. This is why it seems the Best Picture winner every year always seems to disappoint if you’ve seen it after the fact.

But director Alfonso Cuarón, who also did Children of Men and The Prisoner of Azakaban (in my opinion the most well directed Harry Potter film), pulls off a stunning visual feat that keeps us enthralled with wonder for the entire 100 minutes.

            It follows the story of medical engineer Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) who is attempting to install a new “prototype” on the hubble telescope. It’s her first mission to space and she shares it with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney).  Inevitably though the mission does not go according to plan. “Houston, I’ve got a bad feeling about this mission,” say Kowalsky and we’re never quite sure if he’s joking or not.

            Beyond this the film cannot be explained other than you need to go see it. Words do in fact fall short of this film as it lends itself almost entirely to visual hypnosis. The camera work hangs and floats like being, I want to say “underwater” but in fact it’s just the opposite, in space. This lack of gravity upon the camera both disorients and enchants the viewer (I almost found myself getting slightly nauseous and dizzy at one point). Stunning visual after stunning visual makes up the central framework for the movie, as the action speeds up and slows down in fascinating terror.    

The only complaint I can muster is that parts get slightly sentimental, dare I say sappy, and almost cause me to disengage. Then again I am a cynical bastard, and, (Spoiler) though not really a surprise, it’s not like everyone lives.

 

People who should watch this movie: People who can never leave earth.

People who shouldn’t watch this movie: People who get carsick.

 

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