‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ Director Reveals that Original Version Focused on Humans

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Matt Reeves Dawn of the Planet of the Apes set photo Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Director Reveals that Original Version Focused on Humans

In recent years we’ve seen a lot of movies and TV shows set in post-apocalyptic futures (hopefully it’s not prophetic), but upcoming sci-fi sequel/prequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes promises to show the beginning of a new civilization as well as the end of an old one. Set a decade after the end of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the new chapter in the franchise sees Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his fellow apes living out a peaceful life in the forest, which is disturbed when they come into contact with members of a nearby human settlement.

One of the reasons that Rise of the Planet of the Apes worked so well is that a significant portion of the movie is spent inside an ape sanctuary, where the drama of Caesar’s rise to leadership among the apes is conveyed entirely through body language and the occasional bit of sign language between Caesar and ex-circus orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval). During the second half of the movie, the human characters were very much moved to the periphery of the narrative.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has already impressed a lot of critics with its tale of two tribes, but director Matt Reeves revealed in an interview with Screen Rant that Twentieth Century Fox’s original plan was for the movie to be more focused on the human characters, rather than being centered on Caesar and continuing his story.

“When I came in to meet with the studio, when they approached me about doing the film, they pitched me the story that they had… and it didn’t center on Caesar. It started in the post-apocalyptic city… and there was this story in the city and the apes were actually very articulate, they already could speak very, very easily. I was like, ‘Oh… Well I don’t think this is the movie for me… This is just not what I would do.’

“And so they said, ‘What would you do?’ And I said, ‘I think you need to keep on with what you did. You created, in Rise, a hero in Caesar, and if I were going to do this movie I’d want it to be Caesar’s movie through and through. I think the secret of Rise is that it ends up being an ape’s point-of-view movie. I think now that you’ve done that, you’ve earned it, this movie should declare itself right from the beginning as being his movie. It should start and end on him.”

To Reeves’ surprise, the studio immediately acquiesced to his ideas with a simple, “Sounds great,” and offered him the directing job. With that, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes became the continued story of Caesar, and Reeves made the decision to exclude humans from the first twenty minutes or so of the movie, so as to give the audience time to adjust to the the apes’ perspective. It actually makes a lot of sense in context: the franchise is all about the process of apes taking over the planet, so it only feels natural that they would take over the movie’s narrative as well.

July Movie Preview Dawn Planet of the Apes Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Director Reveals that Original Version Focused on Humans

Another reason that Reeves felt it was important to focus on Caesar and his tribe – at least during the beginning of the movie – was that post-apocalyptic movies have been done a million times before and audiences have already seen the story of the last few surviving humans on Earth done in just about every way possible. Instead, Reeves designed to story to be a modern Western that was partially influenced by films like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Apocalypse Now.

Ultimately, however, Reeves says Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is about both humans and apes, and doesn’t hold either group up as the good guys or the bad guys: “The whole conceit is that it’s about animals that have taken over the planet, but… the secret is that we are the animals that have taken over the planet, and so it’s really about us. You look into the face of apes in order to look at ourselves.”

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes arrives in theaters on July 11, 2014.

Stay tuned for more of our Interview with director Matt Reeves

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  1. This has nothing to do with the article, but I love Andy Serkis!

    • He’s in the header image, so I’ll allow it.

      • What is this, a damn media Serkis?

        • ‘Woohoo! The serkis!’
          ‘It’s a *media* serkis…’
          ‘Woohoo! I don’t know the difference!’

  2. This Matt Reeves is quite a director, I love his vision and Cloverfield remains the most fun and exhilirating experience I’ve ever had in a theatre. Can’t wait for Dawn.

  3. FINALLY! a director who realizes not every movie needs to be centered around cookie cutter human characters rather than the actual title characters of a franchise.

  4. Won some tickets to the world premiere a couple weeks ago and I can definitely say it’s a must watch. Can’t wait to see it again!

  5. I was never a big Planet of the Apes fan, the only reason I had watched the TIM BURTON movie was because it was a Tim Burton-movie, but THIS series, centered around Serkis’ brilliantly realised Caesar, is the stuff of Oscars for me (in a good way!) They’ve done a brilliant job at bringing that world to life, and I hope they continue to do so!

    (On a side-note, whenever I watch Planet of the Apes, I keep thinking GRODD).

  6. Michael Bay, are you paying attention? TMNT better be like this. :/

  7. Amazing how fox is easily swayed when they are in need of a director.
    1. It does not take a rocket scientist to know this is an ape movie and all of the movies
    Have had apes in them.
    2. Reeves did decent with cloverfield but this cat has not done a movie in four years so i
    Hope this is good because he needs his first 100 million grosser.
    3. Jason clarke should have been an older will rodman, we saw how angry cesar was in last
    Movie and no way would he bound with a total stranger that calls out his name.

    • Even if this movie sucked and it won’t btw it would easily gross over 100 million.

    • I am going to be very proud of you the day I can read one of your posts without rolling my eyes. At least twice.

      That day hasn’t come yet.

  8. That is great.
    I wanted to scream at the screen during Transformers (1-4) “enough with the GD humans!”

    I came to see Transformers, not LaDousche, not Marky Mark doing a LaDousche impersonation… Transformers. Period!

    It’s like they think we can’t empathize with pixelated characters, but if that’s true why do animated movies do so well? Why do we care if they find Nemo or if Po becomes the Dragon Warrior? Easy, if it’s animated well, voice acting is good, and an interesting story is presented we will care. We don’t need a BS useless human character to rope us in.

  9. I enjoyed the film. Not as much as the first but it is a good instalment.

  10. ive seen many movies this year since january. (lone survivor, the legend of hercules, jack ryan, i frankenstein, robo cop, pompeii, 300, need for speed, divergent, noah, spider man, godzilla, xmen, edge of tommorow, 22 jump street and transformers and i can honestly say cap 2 and the raid 2 were my fav of the year so far and im looking forward to Dawn and GOTG as well as the hobbit in december.

    • same here cant wait to see this film, and i also agree with you that cap 2 was my favourite film so far this year, havent seen raid 2 yet but its on my to watch list with so many other films, cant wait for the 3rd hobbit, i think both so far have been amazing, i javent seen any of the production videos like they did for the first one which is a bit of a bummer