Well, no surprises here; I'm with the general consensus on this wonderful, thoughtful, surprising blockbuster. I saw this movie in a genuinely packed theater; every seat was taken, even the dreaded two front rows. And it deserve to be a sell out film; it's a perfect example of a summer blockbuster that manages to be riveting and entertaining while also being thoughtful and character based.
It's bold in several really interesting and exciting ways. The first hour is essentially a character study; that's a long time, in this day and age, to go slowly and immerse you in the world and the characters, but it really helps that second hour. The writing is sharp. You expect Gary Oldman's character to be a villain, because . . . well, because Gary Oldman, but he's really not. You could even make the same case, though to a lesser degree, about the rage-filled Koba; the "human work" scene is genuinely a heartbreaker.
But most striking and wonderful of all, in my opinion, is the fact that this is a summer blockbuster about the senselessness of violence. The film builds up a tremendous amount of tension and dread over the first hour; you feel the oppresive weight of the violence that you know is coming, despite all efforts to the contrary. And when the violence does erupt, in a nighttime assault on the human settlement, it's intense and gripping, not because it's exciting, but because it's tragic and frustrating. Though an ape on a horse firing a machine gun with each hand isn't philosophical; that's just awesome on its face, admittedly.
It goes without saying that the performances are wonderful from all concerned. But a word for an actor that I haven't seen many people mention: Nick Thurston as Caesar's conflicted son, Blue Eyes; the role could be incredibly cliched, but it has surprising life. A scene late in the film when Blue Eyes faces off with Jason Clarke's character is absolutely brilliant and Blue Eyes doesn't say a word through the most impressive part of the scene. Serkis is amazing, as usual; a scene in an attic near the climax is maybe the finest acting he's ever done - it's certainly the most minimal, yet powerful.
All in all, it's kind of a masterpiece. Great film. Highly recommended. **** stars.