Koba the Ape


I went to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.  Banalities first:  A well-crafted film.  Cogent and coherent in terms of aesthetics and plot (though there is a pleasingly bathetic moment when, following lots of atmospheric shots of apes engaged in social interaction, one ape suddenly addresses another in sign language as “Maurice”).  Nicely acted by the principles. 


In The Dark Ape Rises, the ‘good’ ape leader is Caesar and the ‘bad’ ape leader is Koba.

Caesar is the reasonable one, the compromiser, who wants peace with the humans.  Koba is the nasty one who can’t let go of his resentment of humans, who doesn’t trust them, who betrays Caesar and launches an all-out war against the humans.

Thing is, Koba is fucking awesome.  Because, unlike Caesar, he understands that when you have the oppressor on the floor, you don’t help him up and dust him down.  No.  You stand on his neck.

Here’s Koba, riding straight at the enemy (who are armed with rocket launchers by this point) while simultaneously holding (and firing) two machine guns instead of the reins of his horse.  Caesar never does anything this fucking spectacularly brave and principled in the entire course of the movie.

It reminds me of what Philomena Cunk once said in reference to the revolution advocated by Russell Brand.  She worried about it until she realised that it was a revolution in the mind… which is safer than a real revolution because nothing actually changes.

Revolutionaries are all very well, you see, until they actually start doing anything, or – horror of horrors – winning.  You’re allowed to be a radical or a rebel or a firebrand, as long as you are a noble failure.  That’s why Rosa Luxemburg – through no fault of her own, may I stress – is sentimentalised, whereas Lenin is the epitome of evil.

There’s been much comment from the critiots that this film is good because there are no fully good or bad characters, and everyone means well.  Bollocks.  Koba might be portrayed as doing what he thinks best, at least part of the time, but he clearly becomes the bad guy.  He even dies the traditionally spectacular/poetically-just villain death.

Koba is certainly a bastard.  You see, he immediately turns into a psycho when he becomes a political rebel from Caesar’s benevolent dictatorship.  As usual, inhabiting a zone outside moderate compromise with the status quo and the oppressors is an instant ticket into psychological instability and evil.  The radical is, by definition, an ‘extremist’, and the extremist is, by definition, both a fanatic and a nihilist, a dangerous utopian and a cynic, a zealot and a self-interested machiavel, a demogogue and an autocrat.

Caesar isn’t the only ape in the film with a name that recalls a famous political figure from human history. …

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