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Warning: Spoilers for Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes are in play. If you haven't seen the film, bookmark this page and come back later.
At the end of Matt Reeves' Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, Caesar (Andy Serkis) been through the wringer of combat, and earned the love and respect of his people. Having defeated the menace of Koba (Toby Kebbell) and his insurgent behavior, the ape who would be king is surrounded by his followers. Just as peace started to look like a viable option between Humans and Apes, parties on both sides have set off a chain of events that will change the course of Earth's history. It is a bittersweet victory, as war with the humans is all but assured, and you can see the weight of Caesar's heavy crown in his eyes as the camera pulls in close and ends as the film began.
The ending to Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is the perfect set up to the thrilling events that will follow in a sequel that we now believe will be called War Of The Planet Of The Apes. Interestingly enough, there was another ending to Dawn that quite possibly could have put that future installment on another path, though with a similar outcome. What that ending was -- and how it could have changed everything -- is the reason we're here today. So without further ado, let's look into how Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes almost ended... and why it didn't end that way.
How Dawn Was Going To EndThe most interesting part about how Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes was going to end is the fact that for the most part, we leave on the same exact image. Caesar is surrounded by his followers, we zoom into his eyes, and the film ends on his reluctance to accept the coming storm. However, the big difference in the alternate ending comes in the fact that Matt Reeves originally had this moment take place in the ruins of the Golden Gate Bridge (the setting for the climactic showdown at the end of Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes), which has now become the perfect vantage point for the pending conflict. Why? Because in his interview with /Film, Matt Reeves confessed that the final shot of the film would have shown Caesar staring at an incoming armada of war ships.
This ending actually ties directly into a subplot in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes involving Gary Oldman's character, Dreyfus, and his team's successful efforts to raise a Navy ship that survived the Simian Flu epidemic. The way the film plays now, the subplot runs its course well enough and ends with a frantic SOS sent by one of Dreyfus' men as Koba and his soldiers attack the human settlement in San Francisco. With the knowledge of an alternate ending that includes the arrival of warships, however, it looks like a bit of a glaring plot hole. Why introduce the possibility of a war ship (and proceed to include a shot of it in an early trailer, shown above), if only to dump it before theatrical release?
Matt Reeves actually has a good reason for doing just that, and it involves the eventual fate of the franchise. Let's explore...
Why Matt Reeves Changed The EndingDespite teasing the inclusion of the war ships with both the progression of the storyline, as well as a shot of the warship sailing below the Golden Gate Bridge, Matt Reeves ultimately felt that the original ending for Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes gave the audience too much, too soon. So why would the director of Cloverfield give us an ending of Caesar engaged in somber reflection, instead of embracing the sort of military muscle we’ve seen him use to great effect? No one can explain better than Reeves himself, as he did in several interviews conducted during his press rounds. Simply put, Reeves was operating on the following methodology:
I felt that [including the warships] was taking us too far into the next movie. And almost starting the next movie, and not letting the emotion of what had just happened [settle in], of what Caesar had just achieved and what Caesar had the price that he had paid.
Now, this certainly isn’t the first change that Matt Reeves made to Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes’ storyline, as one of the original drafts of the film’s story had a 100 year jump built into its storyline. The apes were supposed to act more like they did in the original Planet Of The Apes, with perfect English and an e-Cigarette habit, both inherited from their former captors. Without enough focus and weight given to Caesar’s journey, though, the franchise would have fallen apart, according to comments Matt Reeves made in interviews. To fully understand just how important Caesar’s journey is to the series, we have to start to piece together what the future could hold for both the next movie, and the complete arc of the Planet Of The Apes saga.
How Does The Change Affect What Happens NextWith a name like War Of The Planet Of The Apes, you would think the actions of war would be built into the film’s framework in a head-on sort of manner. Will this be wall-to-wall combat? Judging by Matt Reeves’ choices with the franchise, as well as the natural trajectory of the film’s events, it is safe to assume that this will not be the case. While Reeves’ thematic slow burn of Dawn is approaching full heat, Caesar’s reluctance to engage in a war with the humans will probably color his mood in the beginning of the third installment. Knowing his nature, as well as that of Malcolm, his human counterpart and friend from Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, both men will try to convince their respective sides that war is not the answer, despite the ever rising war drums in both camps.
This couldn't be the case if Reeves showed the warships in the closing scenes of Dawn. The inevitable War of the Planet of the Apes almost would have to start with the arrival of the ships. Without a clear vision of the warships approaching San Francisco, the spectre of conflict can be made to haunt at least the first act of War Of The Planet Of The Apes, culminating in the first battle between man and primate - and possibly in the death/overthrow of Caesar. Men of peace do not last long in times of war, and the previous attack on him has shown just how tenuous the ape society really is. Surely Koba wasn’t the only ape who wanted to see Caesar go, and it’s only a matter of time before the rebels rise again. This time, Caesar might not be so lucky, and his removal from power could open the floodgates, thus kicking off the war that will see ape supremacy come to fruition.
While Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes put us on a clear path to war, it did not need to be one great shove into conflict. If anything, scaling back the ending of Dawn and stepping back from the precipice of the apocalypse is a series tradition at this point. In case you didn't know, Rise of the Planet of the Apes also changed its ultimate ending to allow for more open-ended storytelling. It was a change for the better.
With Matt Reeves fully focused on what’s best for the story of Caesar, it’s exciting to consider that while War Of The Planet Of The Apes might not be the all-out battle that everyone would expect from such a title, it will contain an engaging conflict, nonetheless. Now the question of the hour centers on what the "original ending" for War Of The Planet Of The Apes going to be like?
Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is now available on Blu Ray, DVD, and Digital HD; as well as being aired on HBO and all of its platforms. War Of The Planet Of The Apes will be released on July 14, 2017.