Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Ape leader Caesar, performed with motion-capture by Andy Serkis20th Century Fox

We were lucky enough to catch an early glimpse of next month's simian blockbuster Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and here's what we saw.

Dawn is the sequel to 2011's surprisingly ace Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a reboot and prequel of the Planet of the Apes franchise started in 1968 with the famous Charlton Heston movie.

The new films have focused on the origins of ape leader Caesar, how he attained human-like intelligence and how apes came to become Earth's dominant species. The original film – directed by Rupert Wyatt – was a success because of Andy Serkis, who played the lead ape through motion capture techniques.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Caesar offers a hand to friend Koba20th Century Fox

His performance was phenomenal, but before he proved what was possible (all over again, following his work as Gollum in Lord of the Rings) you could see why many were sceptical of the film's chances. Even its human star James Franco seemed to think it would fail on some level, phoning in a performance not worthy of his spandex-covered co-star.

The sequel has a new director in Cloverfield's Matt Reeves on board, as well as a new human cast led by Gary Oldman, Keri Russell and Jason Clarke. Set ten years after the events of the first film, humanity has plunged into near-extinction through a mix of the deadly simian flu virus created by accident in the first film, and a series of vicious civil wars.

Meanwhile Caesar is leading and building an ever-growing colony of apes in the woods outside San Francisco, with an inevitable clash with the surviving humans on the horizon.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Koba sits down to try his first taste of alcohol. Awwww20th Century Fox

What we saw was indicative of a film that captures the tone of the original but also moves things along in terms of story. Rather than the origins of intelligent apes, this film is about survival, difference and co-existence.

The motion-capture is fantastic as you would expect, and Weta's CGI is superb once more, but there was a problem with the ape dialogue. In one of the scenes there's a conversation between only apes who communicate through a mix of sign language and simple speech.

Sign language is of course sub-titled, but the speech is not – and there were times when I couldn't hear every word. The apes' barks and shouts aren't far away from their speech, which might be realistic (all things considered) but doesn't make things clear.

Whether we're in for another situation like with Bane in The Dark Knight Rises I don't know, but I sometimes struggled to understand what was being said by Caesar, and considering he's the main character that is a problem.

Apart from that there's little to dislike about what was seen. With a large focus on scenes containing only apes however, the film is in danger of losing people, though through no fault of its own. Some will just not be able to get past the idea of talking monkeys, so don't be surprised to hear some sniggering in cinemas come the film's release on 17 July.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
A monkey holding a shotgun is all I ever wanted from cinema20th Century Fox