Sure, the trailers for "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" looked really cool, and based on the precedent set by "Rise," we expected smart sci-fi. But the critical reaction to Matt Reeves' sequel has been something else entirely.
"Dawn" has received, by far, the best reviews of any of the major summer tentpoles, with the vast majority of critics praising its craftsmanship and involving story.
See what the critics are saying about "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" below.
"In the aftermath of a global 'simian flu,' introduced at the end of Rise, mankind teeters on the edge of extinction, its survivors huddling together in depowered metropolitan areas—including San Francisco, where Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) gives pep talks to the increasingly demoralized masses. One day, a scouting group, led by token reasonable human Malcolm (Jason Clarke), stumbles upon the woodland encampment of Caesar (Andy Serkis), the chimpanzee whose IQ was chemically increased in the last installment. Post-escape, he’s become a proud father and a revered leader, building a fully functioning society for his fellow brainy primates. But will the reappearance of Homo sapiens, long thought dead and gone, threaten their ape-topia?" — A.A. Dowd, A.V. Club
The Human Element
If only as much care were put into the film's human characters. Oldman nearly pops a hernia from hamming it up so hard, and Clarke's melancholy eyes are so perpetually moist in his admiration of the apes, you want to offer a tissue. The one truly great performance belongs to Andy Serkis, whose Caesar is his most soulful motion-capture creation yet. — Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly
"Serkis is the world's preeminent motion-capture performer, having lent his physicality and vocal flourishes to King Kong and 'Lord of The Ring's' Gollum prior to the soulful, tormented Caesar of the 'Apes' series. At this point in the motion-capture effects industry, there's little question of believing what we're seeing. We believe. We believe there is an actor, a real actor, in there, behind the eyes of the digital creation. This is why the film, despite its bloat and its overfondness for scenes of massacre, feels as if it were made by actual humans." — Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
The Final Word
"'Dawn' is more than a bunch of occasionally thrilling action sequences, emotional gut punches and throwaway jokes arranged in predictable sequence. It is technically impressive and viscerally exciting, for sure, but it also gives you a lot to think, and even to care, about." — A.O. Scott, The New York Times