Nothing can stop the hype train for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes now, especially since the early Twitter reactions to screenings of the movie described it as everything from "ambitious" to a "true cinematic masterpiece," with "awesome" being the most frequently used adjective.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes picks up ten years after the end of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Human civilization has been ravaged by the spread of the Simian Flu, which culled the population of humanity to a mere shadow of its former self, even as Caesar's community of intelligent apes grew in strength. After years of sickness and in-fighting among humans, the two tribes clash once more and must decide whether to declare war or peace - although the trailers (and movie title) have already kind of given away the direction that they eventually find themselves heading in.
In case the Twitter verdict felt a bit flimsy, however, the first full reviews for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes are now online and they're almost universally positive. The movie currently has an 89% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with several critics praising it as being even better than the previous movie. Check out some review highlights below.
The Hollywood Reporter - Todd McCarthy:
"A gripping account of interspecies conflict, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes manages to do at least three things exceptionally well that are hard enough to pull off individually: Maintain a simmering level of tension without letup for two hours, seriously improve on a very good first entry in a franchise and produce a powerful humanistic statement using a significantly simian cast of characters. In the annals of sequels, Dawn is to Rise of the Planet of the Apes what The Empire Strikes Back was to Star Wars — it’s that much better."
Variety - Guy Lodge:
"An altogether smashing sequel to 2011′s better-than-expected Rise of the Planet of the Apes, this vivid, violent extension of humanoid ape Caesar’s troubled quest for independence bests its predecessor in nearly every technical and conceptual department...
"Serkis must by now be used to the superlatives heaped upon his agile fusion of performance and image in many a CGI spectacle, though he’s in particularly empathetic, emotionally specific form here; Kebbell’s brute physicality and wild-eyed animosity, meanwhile, burns through the digital disguise. Despite Clarke’s everyman likability and some reliably gonzo posturing from Oldman, the less hirsute ensemble seems a little bland by comparison."
SFX - James White:
"Confident, assured, muscular and moving in places, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is a strong second outing for the re-ignited franchise, one that feels more human than many of the big studio films crowding cinemas."
Hey U Guys - Emily Breen:
"Matt Reeves’ phenomenal feature weaves the technological mastery of Weta together with uniformly strong performances and an intelligent script, for a film that is as rich philosophically as it is aesthetically... Though peppered with moments of levity, DOTPOTA is a thought provoking and impressive dialogue on the concept of trust which hits no wrong notes."
Film School Rejects - Jack Giroux;
"The humans are no afterthought in this film. We’ve seen two egregious examples of just the opposite this summer. With Godzilla and Transformers: Age of Extinction, the characters hardly registered as human beings. They’re blank slates hanging around as action unfolds around them. Not once while watching the humans in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is there a desire to cut back to the CGI impressiveness of the apes. Every member of the species now facing extinction has personality, goals and stories of their own. On top of that, they’re structurally important. Their decisions have consequences and impact Caesar’s journey."
Cinema Blend - Sean O'Connell:
"Wherever you imagined the resurrected Planet of the Apes franchise might go following the downbeat conclusion of 2011’s surprise hit Rise of the Planet of the Apes, you still will not be prepared for the scope, intelligent vision and accomplishment (both technical and emotional) of the superior, intense, terrifying, exhilarating and altogether spectacular sequel."
Hitfix - Drew McWeeny
"Dawn' is not just a good genre movie or a good summer movie. It's a great science-fiction film, full-stop, and one of the year's very best movies so far...
"The script by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, and Mark Bomback is about what violence does to communities, so while it is indeed an action film at times, and there are some thrillingly staged sequences that director Matt Reeves has imagined, I found myself actively rooting against any action in the film simply because I cared about all the characters enough that I didn't want to see any of them, human or ape, end up in harm's way. Once a human community... comes into contact with Caesar's apes, tragedy seems inevitable, and it's awful to watch it unfold."
In case it's not apparent from this wellspring of rave reviews, the initial consensus is that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a must-see movie for just about everyone, but especially for sci-fi fans and those who loved the previous entries in the series (most of them, anyway - Tim Burton's remake got a few unfavorable mentions).
While it may be true that no one expected much from Rise of the Planet of the Apes back in 2011, the positive critical response to that movie and the series of excellent trailers for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes means that anticipation has long been running high for this sequel. Based on the reviewer verdict that it's a lot more than just a popcorn movie, perhaps Dawn of the Planet of the Apes might even manage to become one of the rare exceptions to the Academy Awards' traditional snubbing of genre movies.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is out in theaters on July 11th, 2014.