I had the good fortune to see a screening of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes several hours ago. What follows are some preliminary thoughts on what is a great film, and one guaranteed to make many millions of dollars at the box office.
1. Andy Serkis is a revelation as Caesar. His ape brethren Maurice, Rocket, and Koba are equally impressive. Serkis should be nominated for an Oscar. The "human" actors all give solid performances. The apes in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes are the stars of the film as they should be.
2. Koba's character will be the basis of a meme that conquers the Internet for a few days. He is that compelling.
3. Dawn offers up a nice bit of armchair cinema philosophy about human nature, violence, the state, power, authority, and ethics. There are no easy solutions to the conundrum faced by ape and human society in the movie.
4. The reboot is closer to the original French novel's themes about animal rights, the evils of vivisection, as well as the intellectual and moral perils posed by speciesism. Dawn continues with that narrative, and unlike the 1968 classic largely ignores questions of race and civil rights. Given how white supremacists are obsessed with the original Planet of the Apes films--they view it as a cautionary tale of black dominance and white servitude--I am curious as to how they will shoehorn the new films into their twisted and sick political imaginary.
5. Dawn rewards careful viewing. There is a great deal of detail both in the foreground and background of the scenes. The writers, producers, and cinematographers who crafted Dawn have done a wonderful job creating a believable world. The San Francisco scenes were evocative of the work done in Children of Men, another great film which rewards careful and deep viewing.
The score also does an excellent job of complementing the on screen events while remaining unobtrusive.
6. Dawn's CGI and motion capture work is stunning.
7. Dawn's ending is ambiguous. Two thoughts.
One, fans of the original series will likely be excited that the horrible Battle for the Planet of the Apes will be reimagined as the sequel to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Dawn is heavily influenced by the original Battle; And in many ways, Dawn is Act One of a reimagined Battle).
Two, the reboot is also drawing on the energy of the 1975 Planet of the Apes cartoon series. If the sequel(s) to Dawn can successfully combine those sensibilities then success is ensured.
8. Ammosexuals, the Gun Right, and open carry gun fetishists who massage their personal "Preciouses" in public at stores like Target, will not be happy with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Fox News and the Right-wing echo chamber will attack the movie as one more example of "liberal" Hollywood pushing its "anti-gun agenda" on the American people. Remember, guns don't kill people, people kill people...or in this case, apes and people armed with guns kill each other.