Film Crit Hulk Smash: STORY VS. CHARACTER - THE TWO MOVIES WITHIN DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

Hulk breaks down the problems he sees with this month's big blockbuster. 

SO HULK SAW DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES LAST WEEK, WHICH IS A FILM THAT MANY HAVE SEEMED TO ADORE. AND YES, HULK THOUGHT IT WAS QUITE GREAT IN MANY RESPECTS. IT WAS OFTEN INVOLVING, EMOTIONALLY FULFILLING AND EVEN QUITE THRILLING; THE KIND OF FILM JUST LITTERED WITH PURPOSEFUL FILMMAKING (LIKE AN ACTUAL MOTIVATED 360 CAMERA SHOT!). BUT THE PROBLEM IS THAT THIS FILM ALSO CONTAINS ONE SIMPLE FLAW OF APPROACH, A FLAW SO OBVIOUS AND RUDIMENTARY THAT HULK COULDN'T HELP BUT FEEL A BIT FRUSTRATED AND WONDER HOW IT WAS EFFECTIVELY MISSED. BUT TO BEST EXPLORE THIS ONE PROBLEMATIC ISSUE, HULK WILL START WITH A QUESTION:

WHY ARE THE SCENES WITH THE APES INFINITELY MORE COMPELLING THAN THE SCENES WITH THE HUMANS?

TO MAKE IT CLEAR, THE FILM VOLLEYS BACK AND FORTH BETWEEN THE TWO GROUPS THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE RUNNING TIME AND ACROSS THE BOARD, PEOPLE SEEM TO EMPATHIZE DEEPLY WITH APES AND YET CAN'T SEEM TO CONNECT TO THE HUMAN CHARACTERS IN QUITE THE SAME WAY. IT'S NOT TO SAY THERE IS SOMETHING ABJECTLY BAD ABOUT THE HUMAN SEQUENCES, JUST THAT THERE IS A CLEAR DIFFERENCE IN QUALITY BETWEEN THE TWO. SO ARE THE APES JUST INHERENTLY BETTER CHARACTERS? NOT NECESSARILY. ARE THEY SIMPLY MORE LIKEABLE? NOPE. ARE THE PERFORMANCES BETTER? NOT EVEN THAT. IN FACT, BOTH GROUPS ARE HANDLED WITH THE SAME DEFT DIRECTION AND A BEVY OF EXPRESSIVE PERFORMANCES TRYING TO BRING THE EMOTION OF EVERYONE TO THE SCREEN. SO REALLY, THERE IS JUST ONE SIMPLE ISSUE OF WHAT IS WRONG HERE AND IT GETS RIGHT AT THE HEART OF THE IMPORTANCE OF NARRATIVE ITSELF:

THE APES HAVE A STORY, THE HUMANS DO NOT.

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THE WORD "STORY" GETS THROWN AROUND OUT, BUT PEOPLE GENERALLY HAVE A TOUGH TIME UNDERSTANDING WHAT THE WORD MEANS IN A CONCRETE WAY, LET ALONE AN AGREED-UPON WAY. SO PLEASE, PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT HULK ISN'T SAYING A FILM AUTOMATICALLY HAS TO HAVE A STORY (ESPECIALLY A RIGIDLY DEFINED ONE) IN ORDER TO BE GOOD. HULK'S ENJOYED COUNTLESS FILMS WITHOUT TRADITIONAL STORIES, FROM EXPERIMENTAL FILMS, TO RAG-TAG WANDERING JOURNEYS, TO EPISODIC VIGNETTES, TO THE ARTISTIC EXPLORATION OF PURE ABSTRACTION. BUT THE THING ABOUT THOSE FILMS IS THAT THEY ARE BUILT ON A SPECIFIC SOCIAL CONTRACT WITH THE AUDIENCE WHEREIN THEY GET TO EXPLORE THEIR THEMES AND MEANINGS WITH THEIR OWN PARTICULAR CINEMATIC LANGUAGES. BUT WHAT HULK IS TALKING ABOUT HERE IS A BIT DIFFERENT FROM THOSE ABSTRACTIONS, BECAUSE WE ARE DEALING WITH THE POWER OF THAT INCREDIBLY POPULAR THINGS WE CALL "NARRATIVES" - A.K.A. TRADITIONAL STORYTELLING. AND IN CONSTRUCTING THESE NARRATIVES, IT'S ALL ABOUT THE WAYS WE WANT A PARTICULAR STORY CHOICE TO HAVE A MAXIMUM INTENDED EFFECTIVE ON THE AUDIENCE. AND WHEN WE ADHERE TO THE RIGHT CHOICES FOR THE DESIRED EFFECTS WE ARE AIMING FOR, THEN AN AUDIENCE REALLY DOES RESPOND WITH INTEREST AND PRAISE. AND WHEN IT GETS MUDDLED OR MISHANDLED, SOME MAY STILL LIKE IT, BUT IT GENERALLY FEEDS DIVERGENT AND STARK DISAGREEMENT.

SO LET'S START AT THE OBVIOUS QUESTION: WHAT IS DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES AIMING FOR? REALLY, THE THEMATIC AIM IS QUITE SIMPLE AND CLASSIC: IT'S A STORY OF TWO SIDES ENTRENCHED IN A STRUGGLE TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT FOR THEIR PEOPLE, SPECIFICALLY CONCERNING POTENTIAL WARFARE, THUS EXPOSING THE SHADES OF GREY IN THEIR PEOPLE'S MORALITY, THUS BRINGING US TO THE ESSENTIAL IMPASSE OF TRIBAL CONFLICT. AND SINCE IMPASSE IS GOING TO BE TRUE FOR BOTH SIDES, THE STORY GOALS FOR BOTH SIDES ARE ABSOLUTELY THE SAME TOO... THE PROBLEM IS THAT THE TWO SIDES COULD NOT MAKE UP MORE RADICALLY DIFFERENT FILMS IN TERMS OF NARRATIVE APPROACH.

ONE OF THOSE FILMS IS THE STORY OF THE APES.

CHIEFLY THE STORY OF CAESAR AND HIS INNER CIRCLE. THERE IS HIS AGGRESSIVE #2 IN KOBA, HIS YOUNG AND IMPATIENT SON BLUE EYES, HIS LOYAL AND KIND-HEARTED FRIEND MAURICE, AND HIS LOVING WIFE CORNELIA. WE START THEIR STORY WITH A BEAUTIFULLY EXECUTED HUNTING SCENE, ONE IN WHICH BLUE EYES GETS ATTACKED SUDDENLY BY A BEAR AND CAESAR STEPS BETWEEN THEM. AND WITH BOTH THEIR LIVES IN DANGER, IT IS KOBA WHO COMES TO THE FINAL RESCUE IN AN ENTHRALLING MOMENT, DIVING ACROSS A HILLSIDE WITH A SPEAR. THE MOMENT IS NOT ONLY EXCITING IN A CINEMATIC SENSE, IT TELLS US EVERYTHING ABOUT THESE PEOPLE'S RELATIONSHIPS, THEIR DEVOTION TO EACH OTHER, AND THEIR SENSE OF COMMUNITY. MEANING THE APES ARE ALL IN A PLACE OF WELL-DEFINED STASIS AND IT'S TOLD TO US THROUGH DRAMA. WE EVEN GET A LOOK INTO THEIR SOCIETAL RULES: APE SHALL NOT KILL APE, AND SO ON. BUT SOON IT ALL STARTS TO CHANGE. AN APE IS SHOT BY A TERRIFIED HUMAN PASSING THROUGH THE WOODS. CAESAR, NOT WANTING TO BRING WAR, TELLS THEM TO LEAVE, BUT SOON THE DIVERGENT OPINIONS ON SUCH AN ATTACK AND CAESAR'S "PASSIVE" RESPONSE, LEADS TO DUPLICITY WITHIN THE RANKS OF THE APES. THE CHOICES TO PROTECT AND PRESERVE THROUGH AID, BECOME CHOICES THE THAT ALIENATE, WHILE THE LITERAL SCARS FROM PAST ABUSE HANG OVER THEM. BUT THE THING TO UNDERSTAND IS THAT EVERY SINGLE SCENE IN THE FILM PLAYS DIRECTLY INTO NOT ONLY THE APE CHARACTER'S ARCS AS INDIVIDUALS, BUT THE ARCS OF THEIR RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHER (PARTICULARLY THE CAESAR / BLUE EYES / KOBA TRIANGULAR RELATIONSHIP). MISTRUST BUILDS. DECEIT LOOMS. BETRAYALS METASTASIZE. OUR SIGNIFICANT INTEREST IN THESE EVENTS IS NOT JUST THE EFFECT OF CLEARLY CONVEYED EMOTION AND THE FACT THAT WE LIKE THESE CHARACTERS, BUT THE FACT THAT THEIR PROPER COMBINATION IS A TRUE-BLUE SENSE OF STORYTELLING. WHICH IS WHY THESE SCENES ARE NOT ONLY INVOLVING, BUT FEEL SO VIBRANT AND FAST-PACED.

THIS PERHAPS REVEALS THE CONTINUED SHAME OF HOW GENERAL AUDIENCES NEVER SEEM TO THINK ABOUT THE EFFECT OF "STORY" AND DRAMATIC CLARITY WHEN IT COMES TO THE QUALITY OF THE MOVIE THEY ARE WATCHING. YEAH, WE INSTINCTIVELY UNDERSTAND IT WHILE IT'S HAPPENING; OUR BRAINS SIMPLY GO "I'M INTO THIS!" BUT IT REALLY IS BUILT ON CONCRETE, TANGIBLE MECHANISMS. FOR INSTANCE, WHEN WE UNDERSTAND WHAT A CHARACTER WANTS WHEN WE ENTER A SCENE AND HOW THAT'S GOING TO CLASH WITH WHAT ANOTHER CHARACTER IS DOING, WE BEGIN TO EXPERIENCE THE CORE OF DRAMA IN WATCHING IT PLAY OUT. FOR EXAMPLE, IN THIS FILM WE CAN UNCONSCIOUSLY GO "UH, OH! KOBA JUST SAW ALL THOSE GUNS AND IS NOT GOING TO LIKE IT WHEN HE SEES CAESAR HELPING THE HUMANS IN THE DAM!" IT SOUNDS OBVIOUS, BUT THAT KIND OF TRANSITION IS EXACTLY WHAT MAKES THE MOMENT CRACKLE (AND YOU'D BE SURPRISED HOW OFTEN POPULAR FILMS JUST FUCKING FORGET TO DO IT). AND NOTICE HOW THAT PARTICULAR SCENE DOESN'T PLAY WITH OUR UNDERSTANDING FOR OBVIOUSNESS, EITHER. INSTEAD, KOBA COMES INTO THE SCENE AND RATHER THAN LET THE INFO SPILL, HE DIRECTS HIS DISAPPOINTMENT INWARDS. BUT BECAUSE THE DRAMA OF THE SITUATION IS SO CLEAR, WE CAN UNDERSTAND WHAT HIS MIND IS THINKING. HE'S BEING SILENT OUT OF SUPREME DISAPPOINTMENT. WE CAN TRACK THE EMOTION BETWEEN THEM AS THEIR FRUSTRATIONS BOIL BENEATH THE SURFACE, ALL UNTIL IT ERUPTS IN A FIGHT.

THIS RESULT ISN'T A JUST FUNCTION OF "CHARACTER" - THIS IS THE DIRECT RESULT OF "STORY." CHARACTER A HAS EXPERIENCE X. CHARACTER B HAS EXPERIENCED Y. SINCE X AND Y NATURALLY CLASH, NOW WE WATCH AS THOSE SCENARIOS BECOME EXPRESSED! THIS IS CLASSIC STORYTELLING AT ITS FINEST AND WOULDN'T YOU KNOW IT BUT EVERY. SINGLE. APES SCENE. PLAYS DIRECTLY INTO THIS KIND OF STORY BEAT -> CHARACTER REACTION FUNCTIONALITY. TO USE HULK'S GO-TO PHRASE FROM THE SOUTH PARK GUYS, IT'S ALL "THEREFORE / BUT" STORY SEQUENCING. IT DOESN'T GO "AND THEN THIS HAPPENS AND THEN THIS HAPPENS." IT GOES "THIS HAPPENS THEREFORE THIS HAPPENS, BUT THIS OTHER THING HAPPENS THEREFORE THAT HAPPENS!" WHICH IS JUST A FANCY WAY OF SAYING THE STORY FOLLOWS A VERY CLEAR PATH OF CAUSE AND EFFECT. AND IT'S NOT JUST A MECHANICAL PLOT-WAY EITHER, IT'S DIRECTLY TIED INTO THE EMOTIONAL LANDSCAPE OF OUR APES. THE PLOT IS A REACTION FROM CHARACTER ITSELF, AND THE WAY THOSE REACTIONS AFFECT THE ENTIRE STORY GOING FORWARD BASED ON THE CHOICES MADE. IT'S BEAUTIFUL. AND HULK PASSIONATELY ARGUES IT IS THE REASON THIS FILM IS SO GREAT.

BUT SADLY, THE HUMANS ARE HANDLED IN A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT WAY.

THEY FIRST APPEAR IN THE FILM TO DISTURB THE STASIS OF THE APES AND SPUR ON THE CONFLICT WITH AN INCITING INCIDENT (THE SHOOTING). WE THEN TRAVEL BACK WITH THE HUMANS TO FIND OUT THEY HAVE THEIR OWN ENCAMPMENT IN THE REMNANTS OF SAN FRANCISCO. FROM THERE, WE GET TO KNOW A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT THEM. THE MOST CENTRAL ISSUE SEEMS TO BE GARY OLDMAN'S UNDERESTIMATING THE ANIMAL ATTACKERS (COMBINING WITH FEAR AND DESIRE FOR SLAUGHTER) AND JASON CLARKE'S CHARACTER WANTING TO SEEK A PEACEFUL COLLABORATION. BUT THAT DIVISION IS RARELY EXPLORED UNTIL WE COME BACK TO THE CLIMAX. HONESTLY, THE RELATIONSHIP IS LARGELY UNAFFECTED OR SWUNG THROUGHOUT THE FILM. IT'S JUST HOW THEY ARE AND THEY'RE OFF DOING THEIR OWN THINGS. BUT REALLY THAT'S HOW IT IS FOR EVERYONE IN THIS FILM. AS JASON CLARKE AND HIS TEAM GO UP TO FIX THE THE DAMN, HULK ASKS YOU: "WHAT IS REALLY EXPLORED FOR THESE CHARACTERS IN TERMS OF A STORY?" REALLY, WE JUST GET EMOTIONS AND TEXTURES. KERI RUSSELL JUST SEEMS TO ASK QUESTIONS AND LOVINGLY PUTS HER HAND ON PEOPLE WHILE OFFERING THEM MEDICINE. THE SON JUST DRAWS THINGS AND SHOWS KINDNESS. KIRK ACEVEDO JUST GETS TO BE A RAGING, APE-IST DICK (CAUSE HE LOST PEOPLE OR WHATEVER). PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT, YES, THE FILM IS REALLY TRYING TO MAKE THESE SCENES FEEL EMOTIONAL AND REAL. AFTER ALL, WE ALWAYS SEEM TO BE HANGING ON JASON CLARKE'S EYES FOR DEEP MEANING AND EMOTIONAL CONNECTION (HULK ADORES HIM AS AN ACTOR, BUT IT FEELS LIKE HE'S A BIT MISUSED HERE. CLARKE'S EYES AREN'T THE KIND THAT LET YOU IN. HE'S MORE THE GUY WHO PUTS UP DISTANCE THEN SLOWLY LETS YOU SEES THE CRACKS UNDERNEATH THE ARMOR, AS ZERO DARK THIRTY USED TO INCREDIBLE EFFECT).

IF THESE MOMENTS WERE BRIEF, ECONOMICAL GLIMPSES INTO THE HUMANS DURING AN APE-CENTRIC STORY, THAT WOULD BE ONE THING. BUT IT'S CLEAR THE FILM IS TRYING SOOOOO HARD TO GET THE AUDIENCE ON THE GOOD HUMANS SIDE. TO EMOTE WITH THESE CHARACTERS AND ROOT FOR THEM IN THE SAME WAY THAT WE ROOT FOR THE GOOD GUYS WITHIN THE APES STORYLINE. AND SO WE GET ALL THESE EMOTIONAL MOMENTS WITH THE HUMANS TOGETHER, SAYING GOODBYE AND WISHING LUCK, CHERISHING THE CUTENESS OF THE APES, ETC. BUT IT'S JUST TEXTURE. IT'S JUST "SHOWING US" AND NOT PUSHING A LARGER NARRATIVE FORWARD. AS A RESULT THEY CAN'T HELP BUT SLOW THINGS TO A CRAWL AND PILE UP THE SENTIMENT ON TOP OF US LIKE A TRAFFIC JAM. AND IT'S NOT THAT THESE THINGS ARE PURELY UNCLEAR; WE EVEN GET ALL THESE HINTS OF BACK-STORIES THAT LEND MOTIVATION TO THEIR ACTIONS. THE FILM IS REALLY TRYING HERE. IT SO DESPERATELY WANTS TO LEND DEPTH TO THESE CHARACTERS AND MAKE US CARE...

BUT THE TRUTH IS THAT IT'S PROBABLY TRYING SO HARD TIME AND TIME AGAIN BECAUSE NONE OF IT IS REALLY REGISTERING. ALL BECAUSE IT CAN'T SEEM TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO LEND MEANING THROUGH STORY.

FOR STARTERS, NOT HELPING MATTERS IS THE FACT THAT JASON CLARKE DOESN'T HAVE AN ARC IN THIS FILM. HE STARTS THE FILM PRO-APE AND PEACEFUL AND THAT'S HOW HE ENDS, AND WHILE THAT MIGHT BE FINE FOR CERTAIN STORIES IT'S A KIND OF NARRATIVE-DRIVEN DEATH HERE. SERIOUSLY, THERE ISN'T EVEN AN EVOLUTION TO HIS UNDERSTANDING OF THE APES. HE JUST SORT OF INSTINCTIVELY GETS IT AND FLOATS ALONG ALWAYS DOING THE GOOD THING (THUS PROVIDING A FOIL FOR THE APE-STORY TO WORK BETTER). BUT IT'S ALL SO MUDDLED FOR HIM. EVEN HIS BACK-STORY SEEMS CONFUSING, DRAMATICALLY SPEAKING. HE TALKS ABOUT LOSING EVERYTHING, BUT IN THAT MOMENT WE SEE A MAN WHO SEEMINGLY HAS EVERYTHING. IT'S A PROBLEM OF SEQUENCING (THERE'S NO "THEREFORE / BUTS" FUCKING ANYWHERE, FOR ANY ONE HUMAN IN THIS FILM). CLARKE'S EMOTIONAL PLEA DOESN'T MAKE SENSE TO US TO THEN, IT'S NOT UNTIL WE LATER LEARN THAT HE LOST HIS WIFE, BUT IT ISN'T EVEN TREATED AS AN INTRICATE EMOTIONAL REVEAL OR ANYTHING. IT'S JUST PART OF A MOMENT WHERE KIRK ACEVEDO IS LISTING OFF EVERYONE'S BAGGAGE, A COMICALLY INFORMATIONAL WAY TO EXPLAIN THE MOTIVATIONS OF EVERYONE. AGAIN, CHARACTER INFORMATION IS NOT ACTUAL ROOTING INTEREST. THAT'S SOMETHING BEST REALIZED THROUGH DRAMA (AND WAIT, IF HE STILL HAS HIS SON, HAS HE LOST EVERYTHING? IS THAT A REASONABLE QUESTION?). HECK, THE CLOSEST THE FILM COMES TO DRAMATIZING ANYONE'S INTEREST IS THE MOMENT WITH OLDMAN'S COMPLETE SENSE OF LOSS AND THE REVEAL OF THE MILITARY BACKGROUND, BUT AGAIN, THAT'S MERELY THE REVEALS OF INFORMATION THAT WILL HELP MAKE A DECISION LATER ON, NOT SOMETHING THAT IMPACTS STORY IN THAT MOMENT. IT'S PAR FOR THE COURSE. ALL OUR HUMAN SCENES JUST SEEM TO START AND WE FLOAT INTO THEM AND WONDER WHAT PEOPLE ARE DOING. THEY NEVER HAVE ANY PURPOSE AT THE START. THERE'S NOTHING TO EFFECTIVELY SWITCH ON. HECK, KODI SMIT-MCPHEE'S ENTIRE STORY CAN BE SUMMED UP IN "MAURICE WATCHES HIM OUTSIDE A TENT. THE NEXT DAY THEY READ A COMIC." THE MOMENT WITH THE COMIC ITSELF IS FUNNY, EFFECTIVE AND EMOTIONAL FOR SURE, BUT IT'S EXEMPLARY OF EVERYTHING THAT'S WRONG HERE. WE  JUST WATCH THEM EXPRESS SOMETHING THAT'S SUPPOSED TO MATTER BUT WE ARE NOT DRIVEN INTO ANY SORT OF CONFLICT, NOR DRIVEN OUT OF THEM INTO THE PLOT. THEY ARE EMOTIONAL, YET INERT; MERE TACTILE HUMANS IN A STORY-LESS DIORAMA.

AND THIS MATTERS A BUTT-LOAD.

BUT BECAUSE HULK HAS TO QUALIFY EVERYTHING, LET'S BRING IT BACK AROUND TO THE CENTRAL QUESTION OF PURPOSE AND NEED. YES, SOMETIMES CHARACTERS DON'T NEED ARCS. YES, SOMETIMES THE CHARACTER CAN STAY THE SAME AND IT'S THE AUDIENCE THAT INSTEAD HAS AN ARC. YES, SOMETIMES THE WAY THE CHARACTERS STAY THE SAME IS THE MOST INTERESTING THING. BUT EACH OF THESE TACTICS HAS A DIRECT PURPOSE AND MODES OF EXECUTION TOO! THAT'S THE WHOLE THING. IF THE FILM WAS EXPLORING THOSE NARRATIVE APPROACHES IT WOULD HAVE FAILED THEM AS WELL. IT'S NOT MAKING GOOD ON ITS EXPRESSED GOAL WITH THESE CHARACTERS. THIS FILM IS QUITE STRONGLY GOING FOR A CERTAIN EFFECT, WHEREIN IT WOULD HAVE ABSOLUTELY BEHOOVED THEM TO EXPLORE THE HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS IN THE CONTEXT OF A STORY, BUT INSTEAD WE JUST GET THE IDEA OF A STORY. THE TEXTURE OF A STORY. THE WANTED THE EFFECT OF A STORY. AND IT'S A SHAME, BECAUSE WHERE OUR APES GOT A WHOLE BIT OF BRILLIANT SEQUENCING WITH THE THEREFORE / BUTS, OUR EXPRESSIVE HUMANS ARE SIMPLY LEFT TO FUTZ AROUND AND TALK ABOUT HOW EMOTIONAL THEY ALL ARE INSTEAD. IT'S ALL "AND THENS."

AND IT'S WHY EVERY APES SCENE ERUPTS ON THE SCREEN WITH PURPOSE AND HOLDS OUR RAPT INTEREST, AND WHY EVERY HUMAN SCENE, NO MATTER HOW EMOTIONAL, VISCERAL, OR CAREFULLY ARTICULATED, JUST CAN'T HELP BUT FALL FLAT.

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IT ALL LEAVES HULK ASKING YET ANOTHER QUESTION: HOW COULD THEY EXECUTE ONE SIDE SO WELL AND NOT THE OTHER?

HULK CAN'T HELP BUT DWELL ON IT. WHERE THEY SIMPLY NOT AWARE OF THE DIFFERENCE IN THEIR STORY APPROACHES? WAS THE ENTIRE APES STORYLINE CONSTRUCTED ON GOOD INSTINCT, WITHOUT ENOUGH SENSE OF HOW TO MAKE THAT TRUE OF THE HUMANS TOO? OR WAS THIS, *GULP* ACTUALLY PART OF THE FILM'S DESIGN TO GET US TO LOVE THE APES MORE BUT NOT HAVING A GOOD REASON TO OBVIOUSLY HATE THE HUMANS? (WHICH IS KIND OF HARD TO ARGUE). OR DOES HULK'S POINTING OUT OF THIS FATAL FLAW BECOME SOMETHING THAT IRREPARABLY DAMAGES THE PERCEIVED VALUE OF THE MOVIE TO PEOPLE? YET, ISN'T IT REASONABLE THAT HULK CAN'T HELP BUT BE FRUSTRATED THAT ONE SIDE OF THE MOVIE IS AN EXAMPLE OF A CLASSIC STORY WHILE THE OTHER HAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING?

HULK ISN'T SURE. ALL HULK HOPES IS THAT THERE IS A VALUE TO THIS.

BECAUSE IT IS OFTEN SAID THAT IT IS A CRITIC'S JOB TO EFFECTIVELY "DESCRIBE" A FILM AND IN THAT WAY HULK COULD HAVE SAID THAT HULK FOUND THE APE PARTS EXHILARATING AND THE HUMAN PARTS LACKING AND BEEN DONE WITH IT. BUT THAT'S NEVER PART OF HULK'S WAY. SOME MAINTAIN IT IS FOLLY, BUT APPROACHING FILMS AS A DIAGNOSTICIAN IS SOMETHING HULK TRULY BELIEVES IN. BECAUSE IT CAN HELP US GET TO THE ROOT CAUSE OF WHY THESE THINGS HAPPEN IN THE FIRST PLACE. BECAUSE IF YOU DON'T RECOGNIZE WHY CERTAIN PROBLEMATIC STORY TACTICS DON'T WORK, YOU'RE JUST DOOMED TO REPEAT THEM.

WHICH IS EXACTLY WHAT THIS FILM DID.

THE ORIGINAL RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES USED THE EMOTIONAL STORY OF CAESAR AS A BACKBONE FOR THE ENTIRE FILM AND TO GREAT EFFECT. EVEN IF IT WAS A FLAWED FILM OVERALL, IT WAS ONE THAT SURPRISED US WITH THIS EXPRESSIVE EMOTIONALITY AT ITS CORE. HECK, IT SUNG TO THE RAFTERS WITH THE GLORIOUS, INVOLVING ARC OF ITS CGI MO-CAPPED MAINSTAY. MEANWHILE, THE HUMANS IN RISE CAME IN AND OUT OF IT WITH AN EVEN WORSE VERSION OF THE SAME KIND OF LAZY TACTICS WE SEE IN DAWN. IT'S ALL PASSING MOTIVATIONS AND UNEARNED "AND THENS." HECK, THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FRANCO AND PINTO BARELY SEEMS LIKE IT'S ANYTHING AT ALL AND YET IT GETS SOME CRITICAL SCREENTIME. EVEN THE BARE FEW MINUTES WE SPEND ON IT JUST SEEM CONFUSING TO US. WHO ARE THEY? WHAT DO THEY WANT FROM EACH OTHER? WHY IS THE FILM ASSUMING WE HAVE ANY UNDERSTANDING OF THEIR EXPERIENCE?

THESE QUESTIONS BRING UP A PHRASE A FRIEND OF A FRIEND USED IN DISCUSSING THE RECENT STRING OF BLOCKBUSTERS. HE SAID THEY WERE ALL "DEEP AND MEANINGLESS" AND IT'S A PHRASING HULK HAS HAS COME TO ADORE. OUR RECENT BLOCKBUSTERS SEEM LIKE THEY'RE FULL OF SCENES OF DEEP POSTURING AND TOWERING EXPRESSIVENESS; CHARACTERS ARE CRYING OR YELLING OR PONTIFICATING ABOUT THE FATE OF THE WORLD... BUT THEY'RE TECHNICALLY MEANINGLESS. THAT IS TO SAY, THEY LACK THE MEANING OF IMPACT, CAUSE AND EFFECT TO THE CORE CHANGING RELATIONSHIPS OF THE STORY. AND THIS FILM IS THROWN RIGHT ON THE TOP OF THE HEAP OF SUMMER'S EFFORTS BECAUSE OF THE MEANINGFUL ACTIONS BETWEEN CAESAR AND KOBA... THAT'S HOW YOU GET REAL DEPTH. AND IT IS ONLY ACHIEVABLE IF YOU INTEGRATE EFFECTIVE STORYTELLING MECHANISMES INTO YOUR EMOTIONAL GOALS.

HULK WAS TALKING WITH ANOTHER FRIEND AND HE ASKED, "WOULD THIS FILM HAVE BEEN A THOUSAND TIMES MORE EFFECTIVE IF IT WERE EXCLUSIVELY FROM APES PERSPECTIVE?" HULK RUMINATED ON THE POSSIBILITIES, AS IT WOULD OFT LEAVE US TO GUESS WHAT THE HUMANS WERE DOING AND INGRAINING OUR CONCERNS FULLY WITHIN THE WELL-ARTICULATED APE STORY. AND IN CERTAIN WAYS IT WOULD HAVE IMPROVED THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE FILM FOR SURE, BUT WE WOULD HAVE LOST OUT ON A WHOLE HECK OF A LOT OF USEFUL DRAMATIC IRONY. AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, WE WOULD HAVE LOST OUT ON THE CORE CONCEIT OF THE FILM ITSELF: THAT THIS IS A STORY THAT IS OSTENSIBLY ABOUT TWO SIDES LEARNING THAT THEY BOTH CONTAIN GREAT FAULT AND A WANTON NATURE OF DESTRUCTION, BORN FROM A CYCLE OF PAIN. IT'S ABOUT LEARNING THAT THE BELIEF IN THE "TRIBAL GROUP" ITSELF OVER THE MERIT OF ANOTHER'S CHARACTER IS AN AUTOMATIC FAULT IN ALL SENTIENT BEINGS. IN THAT SPIRIT, THE FILM WAS RIGHT TO AIM FOR THIS TO BE A MUTUAL DISCOVERY WITHIN TWO SIDES OF A CONFLICT.

THE ONLY PROBLEM WAS THAT ONE GOT THERE WITH A STORY, THE OTHER DID NOT.

<3 HULK

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