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First Reviews: 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes'

Photo of Sam Adams By Sam Adams | Criticwire June 30, 2014 at 12:22PM

The sequel to "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" hits it out of the stadium and into the park.
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Andy Serkis in "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes"
Andy Serkis in "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes"

The first reviews of "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" were released into the wild over the weekend, and with four out of five being faves, anticipation for the sequel to the 2011 reboot is soaring even higher. "Dawn" was directed by Matt Reeves, of "Cloverfield" and "Let Me In," with Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke and Keri Russell as humans defending a planet overtaken by the intelligent apes led by the previous film's Caesar (a motion-captured Andy Serkis).

"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" opens July 11.

Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

A mainstream blockbuster with a lot on its mind, director Matt Reeves' synthesis of brains and brawn kicks it over the goalposts and out of the stadium. Without pummeling the viewer, the only thing so many action, big-budget-oriented directors seem to know how to do these days, Reeves delivers the goods with a fluid sense of imagery and an intelligence more philosophical than geeky or scientific.


Guy Lodge, Variety

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. Reeves stages the ensuing crossfire in the human colony with much the same sense of kinetic panic he brought to the flipped monster-movie mechanics of “Cloverfield,” albeit with far more technical dazzle this time. 


Drew McWeeny, HitFix

I hoped Matt Reeves had made a solid and respectful follow-up, one that expanded on "Rise" in interesting ways. That's all I wanted from it. What I got instead is a film that digs deep, that challenges not only the notion of what a studio blockbuster looks like but also how sequels are supposed to work in a commercial world, a movie about real ideas with a spectacular sense of character and mood. "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.


Sean O'Connell, Cinema Blend

Bests its immediate predecessor on every level. If "Rise" was a chapter in the lengthy "Apes" story, "Dawn" is a complete book, with multiple messages and lessons about multi-cultural co-existence, political lessons about managing fears in precarious situations, and thrilling action set pieces that expand the narrative. "Dawn" boasts some of the finest and most intricate special effects that we have seen on screen all summer.

John Hazelton, Screen Daily

Heroes and villains are provided on both sides — the human versions being enlightened dad Malcolm (played by Australian Jason Clarke, from "The Great Gatsby") and unenlightened camp boss Dreyfus (the UK’s Gary Oldman) — and the film draws parallels between the lead characters’ ape and human families. But none of the characters are very memorable and the allusions to issues such as ecology and racism are too vague to have much impact. Rather than developing those angles, director Matt Reeves ("Cloverfield") takes the film down familiar genre paths — previously trodden by Westerns, gangster films and zombie flicks — that provide few dramatic surprises. 



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