Movie: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

This post does not contain any spoilers, unless you would consider as a spoiler my opinion on how the quality if the movie varies as the movie progresses.  (Or the image below.)

Picture source: cgmeetup.com
So, I watched The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes yesterday, and what can I say, wow, it blew my mind. I started watching it having very low expectations, and I was very pleasantly surprised for about one hour and fifty minutes of its total two hour and ten minute duration, which includes the end titles. Then, starting with the "I am saving the human race" incident, it transformed into the crap that I had expected from the beginning, perhaps even worse, but that does not annul the fact that the first one hour and fifty minutes were one of the most pleasant movie watching experiences I have had in quite some time.

The movie has it all: an epic adventure, adequately developed characters, complex interpersonal dynamics among the main characters, awesome animations thanks to extensive use of motion capture technology, extremely well done & never-seen-before expressiveness in the faces of the animated characters due to the use of facial expression tracking technology, the right amount of suspense, the right amount of sentiment, and the list goes on.

Picture source:hollywoodreporter.com
Why am I writing this post?  Well, I wanted to share one little thing which really caught my attention when I realized it was going on (well into the movie) and which really spoke to my inner geek. It was the way that the apes spoke. It caught my attention because it had to do with scientific accuracy: you rarely see Hollywood bothering to do one of the little things right, so this was quite unexpected and quite welcome.

Throughout the movie, when you hear apes talk, you will notice that they say one, maybe two words, then they pause, then they say another one or two words, pause again, and so on.  In the beginning you might think that the director is trying to show that the apes are a bit too dumb to properly articulate speech, but as the movie progresses you realize that these apes are clearly capable of quite complex mental tasks, so it does not seem to add up.  Inevitably, the realization dawns upon you: Apes in this movie speak like that because that's precisely how apes would actually speak regardless of how dumb or smart they were.  It is the movie trying to be realistic.  (And being awesomely successful at it, at least with respect to this little detail.)

Picture source: graffitiwithpunctuation.net
You see, the fact of the matter is not only that real apes today, in the labs, do in fact speak their limited vocabularies exactly like that, but most importantly, that even if they were to become much smarter, (as the apes in The Planet of the Apes saga supposedly are,) they would still speak exactly like that. They are incapable of speaking the way we do, and that's due to a simple biological reason which has nothing to do with intellect: apes cannot control their breath as we do.  It is very difficult to be eloquent when half the words come out while exhaling, while the other half come out while inhaling. This is all very well documented fact, ask any primatologist about it, and I just happen to know it due to my side-interest in evolutionary biology and biological anthropology.

So, what do the smart apes in The Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes do? They only speak while exhaling.  This only gives them enough time to utter a word or two;  then they pause while inhaling; and then they say another couple of words; and so on.  Of course, this situation compels them to be rather laconic in anything they say, and to resort to speaking in sign language among themselves.  Fantastically well rendered.

No comments:

Post a Comment