Ten years after the pandemic of the deadly ALZ-113 virus, or Simian Flu, the worldwide human population has been drastically reduced, with only about one in five hundred genetically immune to the virus. Apes, with genetically enhanced intelligence caused by the same virus, have started to build a civilization of their own. Caesar is the chimpanzee leader of an ape colony in the Muir Woods near San Francisco. Caesar's son Blue Eyes and his friend Ash encounter a man named Carver in the woods, who panics and shoots Ash, wounding him. Carver's party, led by Malcolm, arrive while a number of apes join Blue Eyes and Ash. Caesar orders the humans to leave, and they flee to their community in San Francisco, centered around "the tower", a partially finished skyscraper. Prompted by Koba, a scarred bonobo who holds a grudge against humans for experimental mistreatment, Caesar brings an army of apes to the tower. There, he announces that while the apes do not want war, they will fight to defend their home. He demands that the humans stay in their territory. Malcolm convinces his fellow leader Dreyfus to give him time to take a small team to the forest to reconcile with the apes and gain access to a hydroelectric dam in their territory, which could provide long-term power to the city. Malcolm meets with Caesar, who allows the humans to work on the generator on the condition that they surrender their guns. As Malcolm, his wife Ellie, and son Alexander work, they bond with the apes. Mutual distrust of both sides gradually subsides until Caesar discovers a gun Carver had hidden and orders the humans to leave. He later allows the humans one extra day to work on the dam after Ellie uses medicine to save Caesar's wife, Cornelia.
Distrustful of the apes, Dreyfus arms his community using an armory. Maintaining his distrust of humans, Koba discovers the armory and later confronts Caesar, accusing him of loving humans more than apes. In response, Caesar severely beats Koba, but refrains from killing him. Koba returns to the armory, where he takes an assault rifle and kills two guards. Returning home, he secretly kills Carver. The generator is repaired, restoring power to the city. During the celebration, Koba sets fire to the apes' home, then, unseen to anyone else, shoots Caesar, who falls from the settlement's main tree. In the subsequent panic, Koba takes charge, implicating Carver in the shooting and convincing the apes to attack the humans. He leads them into San Francisco, where they plunder the armory and charge the tower, with many casualties. The apes breach the building and imprison the humans as Dreyfus flees underground. When Ash refuses Koba's orders to kill unarmed humans, citing Caesar's teachings, Koba kills Ash and imprisons any ape still loyal to Caesar.
Malcolm's family finds Caesar barely alive and transport him to his former house in San Francisco. Caesar reveals that Koba shot him, realizing that apes can be as corrupt and violent as humans. When Malcolm sneaks into the settlement to find medical supplies for Caesar, he encounters Blue Eyes, who spares him before learning that his father is still alive. After reconciling with Caesar, Blue Eyes returns to the tower and frees the imprisoned humans and apes. Malcolm leads the apes into the tower, where he finds Dreyfus. He learns that the return of electricity allowed Dreyfus' men to make radio contact with survivors at a military base, who are now coming to fight the apes. Caesar confronts Koba at the top of the tower; as they fight, Dreyfus detonates C-4 charges that destabilize the tower, at the cost of his own life. Koba starts shooting at the apes, but Caesar tackles him off a ledge. While clinging on a metal girder, Koba is rejected as an ape by Caesar and is dropped to his death.
Malcolm and Caesar acknowledge their friendship, with Malcolm warning of the approaching human military. Caesar warns that the humans will never forgive the apes for their attack, and convinces Malcolm to leave with his family. The film ends as Caesar stands before a kneeling mass of apes.Andy Serkis as Caesar, a common chimpanzee and the leader of the evolved ape tribe
Toby Kebbell as Koba, a scarred bonobo and Caesar's treacherous lieutenant; previously played by Christopher Gordon in Rise
Judy Greer as Cornelia, a common chimpanzee and Caesar's wife, mother of Blue Eyes and a newborn son; previously played by Devyn Dalton in Rise
Terry Notary as Rocket, a common chimpanzee and Caesar's former rival and enemy turned friend
Karin Konoval as Maurice, a Bornean orangutan and Caesar's friend and advisor
Doc Shaw as Ash, a common chimpanzee, son of Rocket, also Blue Eyes' best friend
Nick Thurston as Blue Eyes, a common chimpanzee and Caesar and Cornelia's first son
Lee Ross as Grey, a common chimpanzee and a follower of Koba
Jason Clarke as Malcolm, the leader of the small group that forms a strong bond with Caesar and the other apes
Gary Oldman as Dreyfus, the leader of the remaining human survivors
Keri Russell as Ellie, a former nurse at the CDC, and Malcolm's wife
Kodi Smit-McPhee as Alexander, Malcolm's son from a previous marriage
Kirk Acevedo as Carver, a former San Francisco water worker and a member of Malcolm's group
Jocko Sims as Werner, the colony's radio operator
Enrique Murciano as Kemp, a member of Malcolm's group
Keir O'Donnell as Finney, an ally of Dreyfus
Lombardo Boyar as Terry, a guard at the colony's armory
Kevin Rankin as McVeigh, a guard at the colony's armory
Jon Eyez as Foster, a member of Malcolm's group
James Franco (uncredited) as Will Rodman from Rise of the Planet of the Apes, in a cameo via a video from Caesar's childhood
After the release of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, director Rupert Wyatt commented on possible sequels: "I think we're ending with certain questions, which is quite exciting. To me, I can think of all sorts of sequels to this film, but this is just the beginning." Screenwriter and producer Rick Jaffa also stated that Rise featured several clues as to future sequels: "I hope that we're building a platform for future films. We're trying to plant a lot of the seeds for a lot of the things you are talking about in terms of the different apes and so forth."
In an interview recorded after the release of Rise, Wyatt stated, "We want to grow and evolve, in the films that will [hopefully] come after this, to the '68 original." Wyatt also stated that he wants it to take place eight years after Rise, as a whole new ape generation can be born, and explore the dynamics of Caesar and Koba's relationship. According to screenwriter Rick Jaffa, a version of the spaceship from the 1968 Planet of the Apes under the name Icarus was in Rise as a deliberate hint to a possible sequel.
In November 2011, Andy Serkis was the first to be announced as having closed a deal for a sequel to Rise. It was reported to be a "healthy seven-figure deal" for him to reprise his role as Caesar, the ape leader. On May 15, 2012, it was announced Scott Z. Burns had been hired to do rewrites on the original screenplay by Rise writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver. On May 31, 2012, 20th Century Fox announced that the sequel would be titled Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
On September 17, 2012, there were reports that director Wyatt was considering leaving the sequel due to his concern that a May 2014 release date would not give him enough time to make the film properly. On October 1, Cloverfield director Matt Reeves was confirmed as his replacement. Reeves had been working on developing a new Twilight Zone film. On October 18, Mark Bomback, writer of Live Free or Die Hard, was reported to be doing a re-write for Reeves.
In December 2012, after the departure of director Wyatt, James Franco speculated that he would not be returning for the sequel, saying, "Now Rupert's not a part of it so I don't know. My guess is I won't be in it. Nobody's talked to me since Rupert left." Later, Matt Reeves revealed that Franco would be seen in a cameo in the film. Freida Pinto, who played primatologist Caroline Aranha in Rise, confirmed that she would not be returning for Dawn. In April 2014, when asked by IGN about the fate of Franco and Pinto's characters, producer Dylan Clark said, "I mean, they’re the ones that died...They were ground zero of the virus."
In February 2013, actors Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, and Kodi Smit-McPhee were cast in lead roles for the sequel, set ten years after the events from the first film. In March 2013, actress Keri Russell was cast in a role. That same month, Judy Greer was cast as Cornelia, a female chimp and love interest for Caesar. Toby Kebbell, Enrique Murciano and Kirk Acevedo joined the cast during filming. On May 15, 2013, Jocko Sims was cast in a supporting role of military operative Werner.
Filming began in April 2013 around the town of Campbell River, British Columbia. The location of Vancouver Island was chosen for its similarity to the locations depicted in the film, the forests, and the variety of landscapes. Filming in New Orleans started in May 2013 and continued in July 2013 at various locations such as the former Six Flags park Six Flags New Orleans.
Like Rise, visual effects for Dawn were done by Weta Digital. In addition to the apes, Weta created other digital animals, such as a herd of elk, a grizzly bear, and CG doubles of the live horses. The elk were created using key-frame animation and the digital crowd enhancement software MASSIVE, the bear through key-frame animation, and the horses with a mixture of key-frame animation and motion capture.
The film's score was composed by Michael Giacchino. The soundtrack was released by Sony Masterworks on July 8, 2014.
All music composed by Michael Giacchino.
On May 31, 2012, Fox announced that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was scheduled for release on May 23, 2014. It was announced on June 20, 2013 that the release date for Dawn was being pushed back two months to July 18, 2014. On December 10, 2013, the film was pushed up one week to July 11, 2014. The film premiered at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, California on June 26, 2014. The film closed the 36th Moscow International Film Festival on June 28.
In Hungary, the largest cinema chain called Cinema City could not agree with the film's distributor, InterCom, and as a result it opened on July 17, 2014 on 45 screens, significantly fewer than similar big-budget productions. However, the film still managed to top the weekend box office chart of the country beating Transformers: Age of Extinction, which had been leading the chart for three weeks (on 105 screens distributed by UIP Duna).
A viral marketing campaign for the film launched in July 2013 included a "simian flu" website and mock PSA videos. 20th Century Fox and Vice Media's Motherboard released three short films online in July 2014 which document the ten-year gap between the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. A novel titled Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Firestorm which is also set between the events of the first two films was published in May 2014 by Titan Books. A partnership with 20th Century Fox and Ndemic Creations saw mobile/PC game Plague Inc. get a Dawn of the Planet of the Apes-themed update on July 10, 2014. It allows players to create and customize a simian flu virus to infect the world and eradicate humanity whilst helping apes survive.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was a success at the box office with many critics calling it "the summer’s best popcorn film", and Deadline.com commented saying it is "a franchise that will keep going and going, unless they screw it up". The film grossed $208,545,589 in the USA & Canada, and $500,290,000 in other countries, for a worldwide total of $708,835,589. Calculating in all expenses and revenues, Deadline.com estimated that the film made a net profit of $182.18 million. It had a worldwide opening of $103.3 million which was the 11th-highest of 2014. Worldwide it is the highest-grossing film in the Planet of the Apes franchise and the eighth-highest-grossing film of 2014.
In the United States and Canada, the film is the highest-grossing film in the Planet of the Apes franchise, unadjusted for inflation and the eighth-highest-grossing film of 2014. It opened on July 11, 2014 across 3,967 theaters and topped the box office on its opening day earning $27.7 million (including previews). During its traditional three-opening, the film debuted at number one earning $72.6 million, which was 33% higher than its predecessor. Box Office Mojo pointed out that the film's good word of mouth as well as its predecessors', its darker tone, attachment of new characters and the first film's way of ending were all determining factors in the film's strong opening. It remained at the summit for two consecutive weekends in North America despite facing competition with The Purge: Anarchy in its second week.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes earned $31.3 million during its opening weekend internationally from 4,913 screens in 26 markets where it opened at No. 1 in 14 of those. International opening weekend tallies of more than $5 million were witnessed in the UK ($14.88 million), Mexico ($12.94 million), South Korea ($11.5 million), Russia ($9.99 million), Brazil with ($9.2 million) and Australia ($6.6 million). The film topped the box office outside North America for two non-consecutive weekends.
The film became a massive financial success in China where it opened with $47 million on its opening weekend there. The robust debut helped the film top the international charts for the first time dethroning Guardians of the Galaxy and aided the film in passing $400 million internationally and $600 million globally. Fox reported that the sequel's debut in China was one of the best in history for a Western title, save for Iron Man 3, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Transformers: Age of Extinction at that time. After playing for a month in theaters, it passed $100 million on its fourth weekend and became the fourth Hollywood film of the year to achieve such a milestone. In total, it went on to make $107.4 million there, of which the studio received $26.8 million profit.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes received critical acclaim upon release. On review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, it holds a score of 90% based on 285 reviews with a rating average of 7.9/10. The website's consensus reads: "With intelligence and emotional resonance to match its stunning special effects, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes expands on its predecessor with an exciting and ambitious burst of sci-fi achievement." On review aggregator Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average, the film has a "generally favorable" rating score of 79 out of 100 based on 48 reviews.
Guy Lodge of Variety said, "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, with incoming helmer Matt Reeves conducting the proceedings with more assertive genre elan than Rise journeyman Rupert Wyatt." Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter stated that the film "manages to do at least three things exceptionally well that are hard enough to pull off individually: Maintain a simmering level of tension without let-up 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." Tim Robey of The Daily Telegraph said, "There's evident patience and intelligence to the filmmaking all over, as well as an engagement with genuine ideas about diplomacy, deterrence, law and leadership. However often it risks monkey-mad silliness, it's impressively un-stupid." Drew McWeeny of HitFix awarded the film "A+" and said "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."
Ty Burr of the Boston Globe wrote that "in bearing, speech, and agonized expressiveness, Serkis's Caesar conveys the conflicts of a king with almost Shakespearean grandeur." A.O. Scott of The New York Times praised the film for being able to balance out the action sequences and special effects with strong storytelling, writing that "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."
Less favorable reviews included Andrew O'Hehir at Salon.com who wrote, "Here's a rule that has gradually become clear to me: Any film that begins with one of those fake-news montages, where snippets of genuine CNN footage are stitched together to concoct a feeling of semi-urgency around its hackneyed apocalypse, already sucks even before it gets started. This one makes a dutiful attempt to struggle back from that suckage, but it all ends in yelling."
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was released by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, and DVD on December 2, 2014. According to Nielsen VideoScan, it subsequently became the best-selling home video release for the week.
After seeing his cut of Dawn, 20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment signed Matt Reeves to return as director for a third installment of the reboot series. On January 6, 2014, Fox announced Reeves to direct as well as co-write along with Bomback, with a planned July 2016 release. Peter Chernin, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver will produce. In January 2015, Fox delayed the release to July 14, 2017. On May 14, 2015, the title was given as War of the Planet of the Apes. In August 2015, Deadline reported that Gabriel Chavarria was cast as one of the humans in the film. In September 2015, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Woody Harrelson had been cast as the film's antagonist, and that Chavarria's role was small. In October 2015, The Wrap reported that Steve Zahn was cast as a new ape in the film, retitled as War for the Planet of the Apes.