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Five Things I Learned from 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' (REVIEW AND ROUNDUP, VIDEO)

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood July 2, 2014 at 4:57PM

Going into last week's Fox screening of 3D sequel "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," I was both eagerly anticipating and slightly skeptical.
Andy Serkis as Caesar in 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes'
Fox Andy Serkis as Caesar in 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes'

Variety's Guy Lodge called the film "bleak but spectacular":

It’s always darkest before the dawn, goes the saying — but in resuming a franchise already suspended on a downbeat note, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” sees the simian revolution reaching unprecedented levels of bleak anarchy. 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.

Writing in The Hollywood Reporter, Todd McCarthy likens "Dawn" to "The Empire Strikes Back"--that is, better and smarter than the first installment:

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. 

Hit Fix's Drew McWeeny sung the film's praises:

Walking in to "Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes," 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.


This article is related to: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Planet Of The Apes, Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, The Americans, Matt Reeves, Matt Reeves, Reviews, Reviews, Video, Video

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.