Planet of the Apes: Lesson in Character Development – Dawn

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the second installment in the Planet of the Apes trilogy. Picking up in the future after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, we see the aftermath of the simian flu. The same drug that increased ape intelligence was incredibly lethal for humans. The few survivors that are immune to the disease live in small settlements in a world controlled by apes.


In this film, Caesar’s character arc is further developed. One of the apes that follows him, Koba, cannot forgive what humans have done to him. Once Koba finds out that humans are not extinct and still alive he constantly persists to Caesar that they wipe them out.

Of course this would put apes in needless danger and start a war that wasn’t needed. However, Caesar’s flaw in this film is that he subconsciously believes that apes are better than humans. Due to this flaw in Caesar’s logic, he refuses to believe that Koba could ever break his trust and become a traitor because he is an ape. This fault in logic even almost leads Caesar to his death. In this film, Caesar’s grudge against the human race becomes his downfall, and eventually learns to treat humans with just as much respect and dignity as he would an ape.

Caesar vs Koba

In this film, the character Koba from Rise is further explored and is an important role in the film. Caesar was born in an environment that facilitated all of his needs as an individual. He had a father, a mother, and even a grandfather. Born in a place full of love, that’s all he came to knew. When that was taken away from him he wanted to be back in Will’s arms again and be taken care of. However, this request was never fulfilled and Caesar was placed in an environment that forced him to take action and take initiative. This series of events lead us to the disciplined and hardened Caesar we all know and love.

Unfortunately for Koba, he did not receive the same treatment. Koba was a frequent guinea pig for experimentation and was treated very poorly. Naturally, when someone is living in such neglectful living conditions for so long, this becomes all they are capable of expecting in other individuals. Humans taught Koba nothing but hate. Ontop of this, Koba was never released from this neglect until Caesar arrived to save him.

Koba never had the ability or the wish to take initiative like Caesar accomplished. He never had the capability or the determination to escape from such hateful living conditions so he was conditioned to be passive and submissive. When Caesar helped him escape, he allowed for an environment to let Koba exercise his right to independence and that was like gold to him.

Up until Koba found out that humans were proven to be still alive, he was content with life because his oppressors were assumed dead. It was inevitable for Koba’s violent intent to arise again because that was all he knew. When he found out that humans were still alive, the notion of revenge was therapeutic for him. This is because all of the abuse he received allowed for his anger to build up slowly over time. It is not uncommon for someone to act out violently after suffering abuse earlier in life, because the last thing they want to feel is submissive. It would be natural for a victim of abuse to feel the need to give out beatings, because they want to feel dominant to cope with their feelings of fear and anger out of their mind.

Once the apes finally reunite with the humans, both Caesar and Koba have pretty unhealthy reactions. After Rocket’s new son, Ash was shot by one of these humans, Caesar crosses the Golden Gate Bride to human territory to send a message. Caesar says to them that apes don’t wish for war, but will fight if the situation arises. After telling the humans to stay in their territory, Caesar and his apes take their leave back to their den.

Caesar wishes to segregate humans and apes because he thinks that apes are a much more peaceful species. Of course, this is incredibly terrible logic because there’s always going to be bad eggs, apes and humans the like. When the humans need assistance from the apes, Caesar’s only condition is to have them give up all weapons. All things considered, this is a pretty reasonable request. However, when Caesar finds that a particularly hateful and violent human named Carver, has hidden a shotgun in his toolbox, he associates that transgression with the human race as a whole instead of with one toxic individual.

This is Caesar’s downfall. He believes that all humans are automatically inherited violent and hateful tendencies as soon as they are born. On the opposite side of the spectrum, he believes that all apes are going to be peaceful. If Life of Pi has taught us anything, its that it is naive to think that everyone is going to think like you, and that everyone is going to be peaceful and reciprocate your kindness with more love.

This ultimately leads to Caesar providing the circumstances for Koba to go rogue and stab Caesar in the back, becoming a traitor and leading a war against the humans that shouldn’t have ever happened in the first place.

Caesar only made things worse by making Koba submit whenever his notions got out of hand. In one instance, he stood up and physically made his presence more dominant to force Koba to submit. In another instance when Koba almost harms a human child and insults Caesar, Caesar assaults him and even almost kills him. He ends up stopping himself and says “ape not kill ape”. All of this only incubates Koba’s rage because now he’s forced into submission again, bringing out unhealthy and frustrating memories.

However, because Koba isn’t contained and prevented from acting out his thirst for dominance, he takes action and shoots Caesar in the chest and framing his “death” on the humans, presenting a “human gun” to his fellow apes to start a war.

Apes vs Humans

Now that Caesar is wounded and very close to death, he ultimately has to rely on outside sources to save himself and his fellow apes from the slaughter of the war that Koba started.

There are a few strategies one could employ to fight stereotyping and discrimination, or even just hateful tendencies from multiple individuals in general. One of them is arguably the most effective. All it requires is that the individuals in question work together on a common goal. It really can be anything, like pushing a truck that’s stuck in the mud, or forcing them to work together on a lengthy project.

In this film’s case, our group of human protagonists see Caesar gravely wounded and take him into their truck to tend to his wounds. After being healed by these humans, these same people help Caesar and some of his apes sneak into the battlefield to stop Koba and his army. Caesar and the humans worked together toward a common goal and stop a common enemy. This shoved away Caesar’s ideologies of humans and replaced them with rational ones. Caesar was shown the positive side of humans and learned that it would be naive to think that all humans are hateful because that is just not the case.

Caesar even said out loud that humans and apes might have more in common than he initially thought. It would be wrong to view all humans as horrible living things that only know violence because that’s just not true. It would also be just as naive to believe that everyone in your race would present the same amount of love and peacefulness into the world as you do. There will always be bad eggs, so it would be dangerous to put your trust and faith into everyone you come across.


I think that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the weakest in the series. However, that’s not saying much because its still a phenomenal film. Koba is arguably the most compelling character in the film, because his actions are facilitated by Caesar’s personality. The only reason why Koba succeeded in starting a war was because of Caesar’s naivety. The film also does a terrific job of building Caesar’s character arc to take a next step into the next film. Its the fault of Koba’s actions that War of the Planet of the Apes even exists, allowing for some reflection from this film to take place.

Everything is just sewn together so beautifully that makes for a gem of a trilogy that is sure to stand the test of time.


Noah Veremis

Published by Noah Veremis

I love movies.

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