Top 5 Favorite Moments From: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
This is the thirteenth installment of this editorial series, where I basically take a movie and pick my personal five favorite scenes from that movie. I'll talk about and analyse these scenes, dissecting them to figure out what exactly makes them so great and why they work so well in the context of the film. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in hype behind movies-- are the characters developed enough, how was the score, how does it fit into the larger universe-- that we forget to appreciate smaller things, such as an individual scene that can strike you in a certain way. After I've said my piece, please feel free to go into the comments section and say why you either agree or disagree with me. So after seeing War for the Planet of the Apes (which you can read our review for here), I thought I'd talk about Rise and Dawn. Now, I already did a Top 5 Favorite Moments From for Rise, which you can read here. It was awhile ago, back in January of 2015. A lot has changed since then, and I've certainly developed as a writer. While I do find the writing to be a bit simplistic, and it doesn't go into the amount of detail that I normally would if I was writing it today, I still stand by the scenes that I chose. Thus, it would be redundant to re-write it. Instead, I will just be tackling Dawn. Caution, there will be spoilers.
(Make sure to check out our other "Top 5 Favorite Moments From" for The Dark Knight Rises, The Matrix, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Avengers, The Shawshank Redemption, The Wolverine, Swingers, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Straight Outta Compton, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Alien, and Aliens- all right here)
#5 "Apes Do Not Want War!"
After the humans stumble upon the apes in the forest, Caesar (Andy Serkis) leads an army to the footsteps of the human civilization, in order to intimidate them. He is trying to scare them into leaving the apes alone, a tactic that he hopes will avoid violence. This scene is incredibly well filmed. The scenes before set Caesar's ideology, so we understood where he was coming from. We understand that he is just puffing his chest, and his threats are largely empty-handed, used as a way to avoid a war. You're able to watch this scene from his perspective, and understand that. At the same time, you're able to watch this from the humans' perspective. Except for a select few, nobody knew that the apes were in the forest. Many of them still didn't know just how evolved the apes were at this point. So when they see an army of apes riding on horseback, armed with spears, with Caesar speaking to them, they are completely stunned. One of this movie's strengths as a whole is that it's able to show both sides and both perspectives, so that you can reasonably understand the motivation of every single character in the film. Here, with this scene, you get that exact same kind of thing, and it makes for a powerful and hair-raising moment.
#4 "Human Work?"
When Caesar seems to show sympathy towards the humans, Koba (Toby Kebbell) is angered. Just by repeating one line of Caesar's dialogue, "human work", we learn so much about Koba as a character. We understand his hatred for humanity, because of all the experiments done to him when he was a lab monkey. We understand that that hatred can never be remedied, and he will always view humans as monsters. We also get a glimpse at Koba's temper. As he repeats the line, he grows more and more upset. In response, Caesar puffs his chest and rises above Koba, putting him in his place without uttering a single word. It's a true "Oh sh*t" moment. This forces Koba to realize he's stepped out of line, and asks for forgiveness. This is one of the best scenes in the movie because of the larger ramifications it has. Like I mentioned, we learn so much about Koba's character in this scene. Because of this one scene, we completely understand his motivations. He's not just some mustache-twirling villain. There is a logical and reasonable explanation for why he does what he does, and you almost end up agreeing with him. It's what makes him such a fantastic villain. And you also see Caesar as a leader, and how he acts towards the other apes. The performances by Serkis and Kebbell in this scene are also fantastic, and are really what makes it work. Overall, this scene is an ingenious way to give Koba motivation without needless exposition, and allows us to understand him completely as a character.
This movie kicks off with a bang, allowing us to witness the apes hunting down deer to eat. For a scene that really has no larger significance in the film, it is absolutely riveting. I was on the edge of my seat watching this, mainly due to how Matt Reeves shot the scene. The cinematography, paired with incredible visual effects, excellent acting, and a deafening score, made for a really incredible scene that stands out as a highlight in the movie. It's a great introduction to this new ape civilization. We see that they're not the fully formed society that they are in the original Planet of the Apes, but they're clearly more than just animals. They are like early hunter and gathers, and it shows us a lot about what their civilization is like, and how advanced they truly are. So not only is it a great scene from a cinematic standpoint, but it is also a great way to introduce us to the apes, and to show us how far they've come in the ten years since the events of Rise. We're also introduced to Caesar's son, who will come to play a pivotal role in the film. He becomes the emotional core of the film, and the motivation for why Caesar does everything that he does. It also plays really well into War for the Planet of the Apes, but I won't go into details on that. This hunting scene is a fantastic introduction to the movie, and is really a memorable scene.
#2 Caesar vs. Koba
The film ultimately boils down to this final confrontation: the fight between Koba and Caesar. It's been teased the entire movie, and now we get to finally see it. While I think the war between the humans and the apes is the best scene of the movie, this is the most personal and emotionally driven scene. Matt Reeves did such a brilliant job staging the film up until now so that this fight feels completely natural. They are two colliding forces that were bound to crash into each other. Koba feels the humans need to be exterminated in order for the apes to survive. Caesar wants a peaceful relationship between both sides. When you think about it, it is very much a Professor X/Magneto dynamic from X-Men. The fight itself is also very well shot. The utilization of the tower, and how they incorporate all the different elements of the tower into the fight, was fantastic to watch. It was an epic fight, but it's also very brutal. Caesar doesn't beat Koba easily. It takes a lot out of him in order to bring him down. And the final moment, when Koba is holding on for dear life, and he repeats to Caesar "Ape not kill ape", and Caesar responds "You are not ape" before sending him to his death... it was a perfect moment! This entire scene was so heart-pounding, emotional, and epic, that it was an incredibly fitting way to end the film.
Initial Caesar vs. Koba: After Koba has found the humans' armory, he is outraged to see Caesar helping them fix the dam. He acts out in retaliation, saying Caesar loves the humans more than apes. This leads to a brawl, where Caesar proves he is dominant, but ultimately gives Koba mercy.
"I Said No Guns": When a gun is discovered, Caesar turns it on Malcolm (Jason Clarke). This is a tense sequence, where we're not sure exactly what is going to happen. But sure enough, after Ellie (Keri Russell) gives Caesar's wife medical care, he allows them to stay one extra day.
Monkey See, Monkey Do: Koba fakes being a stupid monkey in order to trick two human security guards. In an excellently-staged, escalating scene, Koba gradually lowers their defenses, before he is able to steal their gun and kill them.
Assassination Attempt: All seems well with the apes, until Koba shoots Caesar, blaming it on the humans. This leads right into the next scene we're going to talk about...
#1 Koba Leads the Apes to War
After "assassinating" Caesar, Koba leads the apes to war against the humans. In a brilliant battle scene, we see the apes on horseback, armed with machine guns, riding right towards the humans. The war ensues, and its brutal. The two sides nearly destroy each other. There's one specific scene that stands out, involving a single shot of a tank that Koba takes over and then begins using against the humans. The work that must have went into making that one shot happen is mindblowing, and it stands out as one of the most memorable parts of the movie. This entire scene is just jaw dropping. The brutality and the carnage behind this battle sends shivers down your spine. Matt Reeves brilliantly puts you in a moral crossroads with this scene. Part of you is rooting for the humans, since Koba is the villain of the film. But also, part of you is rooting for the apes. You don't want them to die. You're watching this scene, and while the action is fantastic, it feels more like a horror movie. You understand and sympathize with both sides, and you don't want anyone to die. That leads perfectly into Malcolm nursing Caesar back to health, so that he can return to save his people. This one scene is the center of the film, and really defines it.
What do you think? Do you agree with my picks for the best scenes in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes? Which would you have picked instead? Are you planning on seeing War for the Planet of the Apes? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
Written by: Nate
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