Astrology: Film: Review: ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ (2014)

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

In the annals of history, many liberators of the oppressed freed their citizenry only to become tyrants themselves. It’s this age old cycle of restrictive Saturn sidling up to revolutionary Uranus – a rhythm that topples and rebuilds civilizations – that’s at the core of Matt Reeves’ highly charged Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

That one of the civilizations at risk of annihilation here belongs to a so-called nation of apes makes what goes down all the more visceral, especially given how hard won, and even noble, these creatures’ cause has been.

Dawn is set a decade after the majestic Caesar has freed his caged brethren in Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011). The simian flu that was unleashed back then – a direct result of drug experimentation on the animals – eventually destroyed most of the human race. Caesar, whose astonishing mental prowess, including speech, was developed in Rise (2011) by Will Rodman (James Franco), subsequently used his acumen to deliver his research-fodder apemates from their lab prisons and into the protective forests surrounding San Francisco.

In Dawn, Caesar (Andy Serkis, via motion-capture technology, reprising his role) is heavily invested in the Lunar archetype of his Family of Apes. It’s both personal and tribal. He’s now Papa to a teen boy Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston) and an infant son. On a larger scale, the grateful apes, buoyed by Caesar’s wisdom and leadership, both the domains of Saturn, venerate their leader as a father figure.

Who should enter this peaceable and flourishing kingdom but a handful of humans, led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke). Malcolm’s goal is innocent enough. He’s part of a large contingent of surviving, desperate humans who are holed up in the nearby city. With their electricity dwindling, the humans’ leader Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) wants Malcolm to make a defunct dam operational to get back on the power grid. But, with the dam situated in the apes’ zip code, will Malcolm and his expedition-mates (including Keri Russell and Kodi Smit-McPhee) be allowed access? And at what cost?

The movie’s script smartly demonstrates the thin line separating tyrants from emancipators, and loyal followers from the gullible. A worrisome figure is Kobo (Toby Kebbell), a way too outspoken ape who suffered excessively at the lab and whom Caesar saved. He’s got enough hatred of humans inside him to become the archetypal Uranian Rebel for all the wrong reasons.

Archetypally rich, Dawn also manages to address Solar kingship, creativity and inspiration; Lunar motherhood and the loss of children; Mercurial mind, education and communication; Venusian affection; Martian assertion, aggression and violence; Jupiterian union of animal and human instincts (Caesar ably rides a Sagittarian horse); Neptunian idealism and deception; and Plutonic manipulation, control and life-and-death power plays.

With this sequel, the Golden Gate Bridge itself becomes an archetype of sorts. As winged Mercury nimbly flies between the upper and nether regions, so do we all traverse the routes joining our higher and lower selves. Think of Dawn as a most satisfying visual aid depicting our human – and not-so-human – exploits, as we wage war with ourselves.

Astrology Film Rating: ☽ ♄ ♅ (Moon, Saturn, Uranus)

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