Posted on Tuesday, July 15th, 2014 by Peter Sciretta
Weeks before the release of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, director Matt Reeves decided to change the ending. They had shot a completely different alternate ending sequence, but he wanted to go for something different. Find out what happened in the deleted Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ending, and why it was changed only weeks before release, after the jump.
The following comes from my extensive sit down interview with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves:
PETER: 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: 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.
Reeves went on to tell me about how they reshoot the ending that you see in the final film over skype. You can read about that here. Reeves is set to direct Battle for the Planet of the Apes or War of the Planet of the Apes or whatever they’ll be calling the third film in the series, and its obvious he didn’t want to get cornered into a story he has yet to commit to. I’ve been telling people that Dawn is to Rise as Empire is to A New Hope, and and ending with the warships heading towards the city would have been more of a cliffhanger like Empire, but it seems like post-Lost viewers are now somehow turned off by cliffhangers and open endings. That said, I do like how symmetrical the opening and ending of the film are, ending on a close-up of Caesar’s eyes.
Side note: The above image is a clip I found in one of the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailers, but it doesn’t appear in the movie.You can see the warship approaching the golden gate bridge in the third international trailer embedded below:
Interestingly, I’ve actually confirmed that this shot isn’t from the deleted ending sequence that Matt was talking about, but was actually just created for the marketing. As Matt said in the above interview, the alternate ending had the warships approaching much further away, on the crest of the horizon, with the apes gazing into the distance at their future.