Hot take: The Planet of the Apes has always been one of the very best franchises. Even back in the ’70s, even when some of the ape masks looked a little hokey, the Apes series consistently delivered some of the most thoughtful, prescient, spooky, and unrelentingly bleak sci-fi films Hollywood has ever produced. Nearly every single one ends on a mega-bummer; beloved characters dying, entire races getting wiped out, or, in one awesomely disturbing example, the entire freaking planet getting blown to smithereens.

It is to the credit of Fox and the series producers that the new series hasn’t sacrificed one bit of the original Apes political commentary or intelligence, even as they’ve expanded the films’ budget and scope. And from the early reviews that just hit the interwebs this morning, it sounds like they have another creative hit on their hands with War for the Planet of the Apes, which supposedly ties a bow on the journey of Caesar, the motion-captured talking ape played by Andy Serkis.

Here’s a sampling of the reviews, which are almost all positive, and range from “a solid blockbuster sequel” to “ZOMFG THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER.”

Julia Alexander, Polygon:

“War for the Planet of the Apes isn't just a near perfect example of what a summer blockbuster should look like, but rather of what all films should aspire to accomplish.”

Bilge Ebiri, Village Voice:

“I don’t know when it happened, but it happened. Somehow, while we were worrying about superheroes and star destroyers and hot rods and whether Captain America could beat up Superman or whatever, the goddamn Planet of the Apes movies became the most vital and resonant big budget film series in the contemporary movie firmament. And they did it with the most confrontational of high concepts: Humans suck, and now the apes are the good guys.”

Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter:

“Almost as rare as winning the Triple Crown in horse racing is to make a film trilogy that clicks from beginning to end, but Fox has pretty much pulled it off with its refurbished Planet of the Apes trio.”

Rosie Fletcher, Digital Spy:

“This is director Matt Reeves's second Apes movie – the first was directed by Brit Rupert Wyatt, and with the help of movement and mo-cap geniuses Serkis and Terry Notary, he's taken creating an actual planet of apes to a new level. It's a world that's never less than completely convincing.”

Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian:

War for the Planet of the Apes has its own sense of purpose; it does not get distracted with tricksy or self-aware Statue of Liberty moments, either ones of their own or variations on the original, and of course this is partly because of the franchise’s prequel status. But it is also clearly a larger decision to frame the movies with clarity and directness, without huge cosmic ironies. It’s an engrossing, forthright adventure.

Brian Truitt, USA Today:

War bogs down during a major sequence where Caesar is captured and his squad orchestrates a massive ape breakout, but turns it around before the end when both men and apes have to deal with their own survival-of-the-fittest situations. The satisfying and heart-wrenching climax is a last reminder that Caesar’s new adventure is one of this summer’s best.

Mike Ryan, UPROXX:

War For the Planet of the Apes is a truly remarkable piece of “summer blockbuster” filmmaking. To the point where I do wonder what summer audiences, used to pretty colors and explosions, will think of this deliberately paced, often meditative story about not just the end of humankind, but also the end of the human spirit. In other words: This is not a movie you come out of feeling good.

Peter Debruge, Variety:

For better or worse, the result is the most impressive anthropomorphic-animal adventure since “Chicken Run” — although impressiveness alone does not a good movie make.

Kristy Puchko, Comic Book Resources:

I admire Reeves’ ambition. Everything from the sprawling action sequences, to the resounding orchestral score, and even the straight-faced seriousness of his apes speaks to his respect for this property ... But amid all his big ideas, Reeves lost touch with the property’s humanity, creating an impressive but cold epic.

War for the Planet of the Apes opens in theaters on July 14.