Have you seen Dawn of the Planet of the Apes yet? You should! If not, you should stop reading this right now, since this post is absolutely full of SPOILERS for the Apes prebootquel, including SPOILERS for stuff that didn’t actually wind up happening in Dawn but will wind up happening in the sequel. SPOILERS!
So, as all of us who saw the movie know, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ends on a triumphant down note, with Caesar the Ape back in charge of his primate civilization (yay!) but also almost certainly locked into an ongoing conflict with the remaining human civilization (boo!) thanks to the anti-human shenanigans of his deceased friend-turned-enemy Koba. The film ends on a moody note which echoes the first shot, with the camera moving in close to Caesar’s eyes—a shot which, perhaps coincidentally, echoes the final shot of Battle for the Planet of the Apes, the film from which Dawn is kinda-sorta remade. (Kinda-sorta=it’s much better.)
The film hints at the approach of more humans—before the apes attack, the San Francisco coalition manages to get an emergency warning off. However, the original ending for the film flat-out confirmed the approach of human-ape warfare. As director Matt Reeves tells Peter Sciretta over at SlashFilm:
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. … It was actually [Caesar] on top of the Golden Gate Bridge, which was covered in apes, all looking out way, way into the distance and [seeing] this really, like, messed up armada, way in the distance.
Reeves felt that the ending was “taking us too far into the next movie,” and not paying off on the emotional journey Caesar takes in Dawn. It’s a statement echoed by the movie’s co-writer Mark Bomback, who told The Q&A With Jeff Goldsmith, “It’s weird to end your movies with strangers, and also we knew we were locking into a scenario for the next one. Why do we want to lock it in?”
Still, Bomback also notes some vague thoughts about the next film, noting that Gary Oldman’s character “said there was a military base up north that’s coming, [and] that will play a role in what we do next.” It sounds like the plan is for all-out war in the next Apes movie, which is already slated for 2016. It’s unclear whether that new film is being considered as the final act of the rebooted Apes series—although that’s unlikely, since nobody does just trilogies anymore. The original Dawn trailer actually featured a brief shot of a battleship approaching the Golden Gate bridge. Fingers crossed, the next movie is a nautical adventure with the apes on one battleship locked into an oceanic duel with the humans on another battleship. It could be called Master and Commander of the Planet of the Apes.