Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Can’t you learn to play guitar hero FOR me?

The utter lack of fun is almost admirable, like a well‑dressed torturer.
Reported on 19th of July, 2014

There’s a fairly easy why to the tepidosity of Beginning before the Anticipation of the beginning of the before of the Apes. It’s an extremely solemn version of a camp classic, where one legitimately wonders how a film with a bunch of apes running around was made utterly, totally humorless. It’s almost admirable, like a well-dressed torturer.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

21 July 2014 @ The Dukes @ Komedia

-$10.00 or, if one must be jejune, and one must... 
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆



The can’t be bothered to be cliché characters to match don’t help. But good character, another good character asks, why did you do a good thing? I find this as surprising as when bad character did a bad thing. It almost makes one miss the utter unrelateability of Wolf of Wall Street, if it weren’t for the fact that featureless good characters are just as dull as featureless bad ones. Crap, now I solved that puzzle in this article. Don’t even bother clicking the link (click the link!).

Crap, in 3D to boot.

Crap, in 3D to boot.

But Richard and Gianni and all the critics like it, and I want to let them, because unlike in most cases, I’m willing to admit it’s just a matter of taste. I mean, willing to admit it in service of proving that it isn’t, since what I’m really saying is that if it’s not funny, or lacks any wit, I’m not going to like it. This is largely a factor of old age. I’ve been going through the films of my youth (this would be like a normal person going through the events of their life with a scrapbook. Vis a vis, my scrapbook – you’re looking at it). Stalker, which is still pretty good, doesn’t hold up as well as Week-End which I forgot is hysterically funny. Guardians of the Galaxy and even the inferior Iron Man 3 are not even the inferior, for this reason alone. Even if they weren’t just much better films. So I’m generally going to be bored by yet another hyper-earnest nonbenzodiazepine from the Lost Hydra. Even if it is good. Which, to be clear, it wasn’t, isn’t and couldn’t be, and I would lie if it was.

The second is probably also a factor of age, though more how I was aged – in the cinema. I’ve been watching the progression of FX since the beginning, and even know a bit about it, and I admit, the CGI in Nothing Can Happen That Affects The Outcome of the Apes is solid. I remain a fan of Mr. Andy Serkis’ motion capture, unfortunately now known as MoCap. Hey I liked him in Enslaved: Odyssey to the West before it was cool. As it’s still not cool, it’s before it was.

But like Matrix bit with the droppy green characters, that’s all I see now. This is not one of those horrible PUA things about the red pill and blue pill (I see reality! I’m the first one! Said Socrates about the shadows on the wall). This is not a metaphor; it is literal. When there are pixels and polygons and raytraces rendered on screen, guess what I see?

And as one bit intersects with another and chalking it up to my personal taste in good taste, let’s just say I’m wrong and wait for me to be proved right by history. What I really want to talk about…well, I talked about how great I am, didn’t I? So what I’m going to talk about is another facet of how right I will be and that’s the slippery slope of That Whole Physical Universe Thingie.

See, the story revolves around rebuilding a hydroelectric power plant strangely, geographically speaking, situated in Marin county. Maybe it’s what ILM used to light up all these pixels in the first place. Anyway, the humans go there and ask the apes if it’s okay if they rebuild the impossible hydroelectric dam. Now this could involve a very simple you let us do this, we’ll give you that, or we’ll do that for you; bargains are the staple of story-telling. But since this involves two potential sources of tension, such an idea was naturally nixed. Just the quid, please. The quo has too many calories…of danger!

As an aside, though generally indicative of the Current Cinema, technically the Current Audience, there is a new (at least inasmuch as I just noticed) little tag on the ratings card before the film, to take its place next to ‘some sci-fi violence’ and ‘funny character burned alive and shown in close-up‘. The new warning for all those parents out there to ignore and then feel righteous about after they brought their kids anyway is ‘threat’. Think about how the very core concept of narrative – putting a character in a trouble, is now cause for alarm…literally? Metaphorically? This is getting hazy. We’re threatened by the idea of threat? Does this mean that an green alert automatically triggers a yellow, which triggers a orange, which triggers the red, which automatically triggers the doomsday device? Huh. I guess I’m already dead. What was so afraid of?

Marx got it backwards. History repeats, first as satire, then as trope.

Back to the story, such as it is – that we’re going to do something! will you let us? okay! – and we all need plot devices, that suitcases can bring down governments or perfect weddings will teach us a lesson about having a perfect wedding only happens when you don’t want a perfect wedding and so on. But there’s a kind of minimal Newtonian requirement that this movie lacks. I get that movies are on some level, a recreation of ‘I shot you’, ‘No, you didn’t’, ‘Yes, I did’, ‘But I have infinite reflectors’, ‘But my reflectors have reflectors’, ‘They no longer work because I shot you in the reflectors’, ‘I concede defeat, my good man’. And there’s always been a kind of ad hoc quality to the way in which physics works in movies. And I’m not asking that we that we know the difference between volts and amps, or that Tesla was totally destroyed by the Edison conspiracy even though I don’t know the difference between volts and amps, or even that electricity exists as a concept. But I am asking that we at least know how to plug things in.

See electricity as your MacGuffin has two central problems, though the movie adds a few for good measure. First, once the basic concepts are in place, it is extraordinarily easy to make. The first hydroelectric plant was used to power a lightbulb so some rich dude could look at his art. Take that, Tesla! And yes, I knew about this esoteric fact before Wikipedia, probably because of television, though I didn’t know his name was the disappointingly unridiculous William George Armstrong, Baron Armstrong of Cragside. Where are the MacDoodles the Fine and Wabbles, the third Duke of Uckreek when you need to make the aristocracy look so silly you won’t feel the need to overthrow them? And guess how many cars the Baron of Cragside used to go back and forth between the dam and his cool manor house to get it up and running. Well, a lot, but they were driven by serfs. You can’t tell me the writers didn’t have access to that technology.

Oh, right. Did I mention that they have a car? Did I further mention that gasoline goes bad after about five years, and so they would have nothing to drive it with. Did I further mention that the Big Emotion Moment when the get the power on and hear music for the first time is because they couldn’t be bothered to check if said car had a CD player, even though the gas station apparently comes standard with a PA system. When it turns into a nightclub…of the apes! I feel like there a lot of ‘of the apes’ bits…in someone else’s article.

And so it begins. It’s not enough that you don’t know even the most basic of basic physics, or even that you’re unwilling to mock your own staggering ignorance. It’s that the film doesn’t know either. They say, repeatedly, that they’re ‘running out of power’. Well, if you’re running out of power, doesn’t that mean that you have some? Doesn’t that mean that the other Big Emotional Moment, when Mr. Oldman looks at photos of his kid on an iPad (and I’m not even touching that), that couldn’t he just use a fucking 12v accessory charger? Or, for that matter, use the power generated by a car to send radio transmissions that is the whole MacGuffin in the first place?

No, what happened, is what happens with so many films, especially those of the Lost Hydra (Richard can confirm that when Mr. Matt Reeves name appears at the end, I was heard to exclaim ‘I fucking knew it’ even though, technically being a hydra, it could have been one of seven names, and further, if I had been proved wrong that this film was in no way related to the idiots who made Lost, that I would have found a way to connect the second cousin of a clapper loader. Right. They don’t have those anymore. Fine. A seventh great uncle thrice removed of a mocapper. Yeah. That was a pretty long parenthetical. New paragraph!)

is that they came up with moment first, as in: ‘Man, we really take technology for granted’, ‘You mean, in knowing absolutely nothing about it?’, ‘Shut up, Pete. No, I mean like listening to Motown. Like when they get the power back on, there’s like music and they like totally are emotional’, ‘But they could just play music’, ‘They don’t have Guitar Hero, Pete. Think about it’.

And so the many gyrations that lead to That Trailer Moment. The reason they can’t use a car to send radio transmissions is because they have to power that tower. Well, that’s fine, I suppose, but what are you using? Because shortwave is really the way to go with long distance transmission, as the waves actually reflect off the atmosphere. It’s the de facto emergency radio system, because of the fact that you don’t need a lot of power, and even if you do have a lot of power, a weak short wave radio is going to transmit a longer distance than a strong radio. This is because of the lengths of…

Right. You don’t even know about amps and volts.

Even if we somehow suspend disbelief that electricity is like super necessary, and that it can’t be built, but only mined from the technology of twenty years previous, even then, the story finds a way for that not to work. Because the One Guy That We Need But He’s Evil But We Need Him is finally banned from rebuilding the dam, for, guess what? Could it be for being good? Actually that’s entirely possible….I was way past paying attention by then. So, now that the only guy who knows how to fix the dam is out of the picture, it might accidentally lead to ‘threat’, and that dreaded extra word at the bottom of the card, so the writers very cleverly solve this problem by…just letting the other characters repair the power plant themselves. As I mentioned, they don’t know how electricity works, so how would they know that they don’t know how to fix the dam? Think about it, Pete!

I guess what I’m wondering is at what point will we reach when literally anything is possible, where it just doesn’t matter, where obstacles exist to give the feeling of obstacles? Like the surprises that wink at us from the wings, they go through the motions, and we go along. I imagine this moment when we are treated to a giant Monty Python-esque hand of the Deus reaching out and lifting the characters in the air over a wall. I liked the wall as a concept. It was just too…threatening.

You could make a fantastic movie along these lines, with characters facing and then not even surmounting obstacles, with tiny little post-it notes tornadoing around the characters telling us all the cool things they totally could have done. If you make this movie, please hurry, because pretty soon it won’t even seem like a parody. Pretty soon, it’s just one step down the slippery slope…of the apes (godammit), and we’ll just have apes shot and falling down impossible heights surviving, shooting other apes, who fall from an impossible heights and think – hey, he’s probably dead. No one could have possibly survived what I did ten minutes ago! Marx got it backwards. History repeats, first as satire, then as trope.

There is a story reason to rules, that some things can and can’t happen. I’m all for the dreamlike quality that the movie might imply, but any surrealist will tell you that they’ve got rules as well. Instead we have about six scenes that some guys liked from much, much better movies, strung together with a bunch of people explaining how they might be strung together. I’m convinced, and I’m working on a very long article, now doubt coming out in Summer 2016, about the idea that we got Howard Hawks wrong, or rather that he tricked us. What he knew all along is that any idiot can write two or three good scenes. It’s all the stuff in between that matters.

What’s sad is that this could actually be a good story, with a bit of commitment. There’s a line that you feel was in the Harper version of All You Need is Kill or the Cronenberg version of Total Recall, where they say the apes are going to win because they don’t need electricity. Extend that to what it is: the apes are going to win because they don’t think they need electricity. What we have is a bunch of idiots running around in the firm belief that humanity, having survived fairly well without any type of technology for 50,000 years, and furthermore, having built technology from a lack of it, believes that the only way to see photos is on an iPad. It’s a world where the internet means that we don’t need to know anything, because we could. Do you see the potential for parody there?

Sorry. I was talking about the writers. Hell of a film though.

The Take


There is no earthly reason to see this film.
Total Profits
In the form of what I heard when the characters talked:
‘Think before you act!’
‘But I did!’ ‘I know, but I’m setting up your character’s arc.’
‘How is learning something an arc? That’s what all arcs are.’
‘Think before you speak!’
‘The apes attacked the armory! But I got here faster somehow, even though I was hiding until they left, they’re coming to attack, and they’re way faster than I am!’
‘I like this post-apocolypse-y fort…’
‘I don’t love it. If we took out those giant plates of steel…’
‘It would be filled with light.’
‘Filled with light.’
‘What a great idea. It makes it less…’
‘If only they made tanks where the doors shut. But, if I have to die, I sure hope someone got a cool shot of it. And that this imaginary person was somehow controlling me from behind the scenes. How else to explain my utterly idiotic…argh!!!!’
Total Losses


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