I absolutely loved Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes. It was emotionally resonant, visually spectacular, suspenseful, dramatic and, best of all, willing to eschew many conventions of the summer blockbuster. A lot of its strengths were thanks to director Matt Reeves, who came in and tossed out the original script for the sequel, opting for a story more centered on Caesar and without many aspects that the studio had assumed were a given – like apes with perfect dictation and an action-packed opening. Every idea we’ve learned Reeves was responsible for so far has been a terrific one, and I’m thankful that such a thoughtful and ambitious director was looped in for this project.
In an interview with /Film, Reeves recently spoke about another part of the film he ended up altering – the final scene. Weeks before the film’s release, the director decided that the ending they had shot didn’t quite work, and he wanted to chop it out. Luckily, the studio didn’t give him grief about it – and instead of a cliffhanger, which Reeves talks about below, we got a close-up of Caesar’s eyes that mirrored Dawn of the Planet of the Apes‘ opening.
The extract from /Film’s interview reads as follows:
PETER SCIRETTA: I heard there was another ending to this movie that we’re not seeing. Is that coming out on the DVD and what is it?
MATT REEVES: That won’t be on the DVD I don’t think, because we didn’t actually get to the point of there are some scenes that were virtually finished and some were literally finished. Which I cut out at the last minute. Because I thought that the narrative, it’s an interesting thing. When the shots come in as late as they do, like I said, there were some shots that I turned over while we were shooting last August or whenever it was, like a long time ago. And I didn’t see the first iterations of some of them until a few weeks ago. I mean, I saw many shots along the way and it was like Christmas. A shot would come in and you’d be watching your cut and suddenly there’d be an ape shot. And you’d be like whoa. But it takes so long to do those that many of those shots we just didn’t get done. So that ending we didn’t get done, but we had gotten this other sequence done and what happens is when you got the final shots in, it’s almost like you finally got your dailies. ‘Cause I’d been cutting a version of shots that has 90 percent of what’s in it is not really what’s in it. And you’re looking at a human being in performance capture gear instead of an ape. As those shots actually finally come in and the backgrounds are in, you suddenly realize oh wait, okay, this shot should be held this long, not that long. And there was a frantic period of editing, literally in the last three weeks. Let’s do another pass on the movie. And I ended up taking out a couple sequences that I loved because I thought the movie played better without them. And we will put those somewhere on the DVD or an extended cut or something. And what was different about the ending was that after the ending that you see in the final film, the idea was that the apes went out on a kind of exodus through the city and they gathered on the Golden Gate Bridge in order to look into the distance for the approaching warships. And I felt that it 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, of what Caesar had just achieved and what Caesar had the price that he had paid. It wasn’t letting that resonate and it wasn’t ending, the final shot with again hopefully not spoiler way, but the final shot was actually in a way the very same final shot. It was actually him on top of the Golden Gate Bridge which was covered in apes, all looking out way, way into the distance and to see this really like messed up armada way in the distance showing up like really like ships in disrepair. And it moved into his eyes as he took in the uncertain future.
PETER: The battle that’s coming.
MATT: Yeah. And it had a kind of resonance. It was kind of cool. But I realized that we had skipped too much of the emotion by doing that. And that it actually in a way boxed us in too much to like the exact moment that felt like and also when we started showing this to people, some people are going wait, so does that mean the battle… like I meant for those ships to be way in the distance and they hadn’t even seen the apes, ’cause obviously the apes weren’t gathering to begin the fight. The apes were gathering to look and see the fight that was coming toward them. And so but it was hard to render that idea. And when I showed it to some people they were like going, so that’s it? They’re gonna start fighting right now? And I was like well no, and I realized that we didn’t have the right ending. So actually that last beat that is the last beat on Andy, this is actually kind of a cool thing too.
So that explains that scene of the warships cruising towards the Golden Gate Bridge we all remember from the trailers but that didn’t appear in the movie. Intriguingly, though, that image that was a close-up of a warship from the trailer? Apparently it was created just for the marketing – the shots of the armada that Reeves put in the movie before he cut them out were from much further away, and from the apes’ perspective.
Personally, I prefer the symmetry of ending on Caesar’s eyes, and it’s clear why Reeves did as well. He likely hasn’t plotted out the third installment of the series yet, so it wouldn’t have made sense for him to leave the film on a cliffhanger, with another major battle brewing.
Tell me, which ending would you have preferred to see in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes? The cliffhanger ending with battleships approaching, or the shot of Caesar looking out over his nation of apes, thinking of the future? Sound off below!