Cover Story: Movies 2014: Why I'm Irrationally Excited About Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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Wearing the hat of a critic means making rational arguments about irrational subjects. Art is irrational. Movies, music, sculptures, painting, burlesque, video games, and professional wrestling may all have rules, but these rules can just as easily be thrown away if the final result speaks to the heart. Love, like art, is irrational.

There are many rational reasons to get excited for about a movie. If the film is Divergent, maybe you want to see how it stacks up against the source material. If it's 22 Jump Street, maybe you loved the casting of the first film and want to see Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill back on screen together. If it's Interstellar, maybe you just want to see what Christopher Nolan has up his sleeve this time.

Those reasons are all well and good, but they're not nearly as fun as the irrational reasons we have for looking forward to movies.

This week's cover story takes a look at the 2014 film calendar and all the movies - sequels and standalones - you should be excited about. As part of the story, I share my logical reasons for being excited about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which have to deal with my interest in storytelling technology and science fiction as a mirror of society. If you were to ask me why I was excited about the film, those are the reasons that I would give you, but they're not the entire story.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes just works for me. It's one of those movies I can't resist gushing about because I love it so much. Sitting in the theater, I totally bought in to the world they built and the character of Caesar. This all came as a surprise to me because I'm not a particularly huge fan of the original series or its mythology.

(In case you're curious, in the original series Earth became overrun by apes because a plague killed off all the dogs and cats and in response humans started keeping apes as pets, only to turn those apes in to a slave labor class. Add in to that a time paradox of smart apes from the future arriving in the past and that is how you get a series that somehow went on for five films and two TV shows. The '70s were a strange decade for storytelling.)

The primary reason I'm excited about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is because of the following story, which is true:

At the screening of Rise that my partner in crime and I attended, we arrived a bit late, so we were up near the front of the theater. The movie started and before long I was really in to the story they were telling. Like most folks, I knew that the apes in the original spoke, but I wasn't sure how far they were planning on going with this reboot.

And then came The Scene.

It's an amazing piece of filmmaking. The misdirection is perfect; in any other remake the "damn dirty ape" line would be the payoff, but here it's the set-up for the iconic moment of this film and, perhaps, this franchise. It's a very meta, rational reason for loving the scene.

But that's not the reason I mention this.

Sitting there in the theater, immediately after Caesar speaks, I was blown away. I almost didn't know how to process it.

And then from the back of the theater, somewhere in the dark, a single voice shouted out:


You don't plan a complete stranger vocalizing what you're thinking. That's not how life works. It's a completely irrational thing to happen. But it was amazing, and to this day my partner in crime and I still joke about it because it was so random we'll remember it forever.

So yes, I'm irrationally excited about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes because one time a complete stranger said exactly what I was thinking in a movie theater.

Rationally I know it won't happen when I go see Dawn, but I can hope. Life isn't always rational.

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