Super-powered mutants dominated much of the show during 20th Century Fox’s panel at the 2013 International Comic-Con in San Diego, but before Hugh Jackman and his fellow X-Men took the stage – to promote The Wolverine and X-Men: Days of Future Past – the audience members in Hall H got a sneak peek at the upcoming Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: the followup to the critically and financially-successful rebooting prequel (i.e. “requel”), Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

The Comic-Con panel included never-before-seen footage from the next Planet of the Apes installment, which revealed the first-look at an older and wiser Caeser – once again brought to life by Andy Serkis via motion-capture performance – who, in the film, has spent the last decade ruling as head of the newly-evolved intelligent ape kingdom. Fox has since released an image of Caesar online, for the millions out there who couldn’t make it to San Diego this weekend.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) introduced the footage, which showed a post-apocalyptic society – reminiscent of those in films like The Road and such TV shows as Revolution and The Walking Dead – in the aftermath of a man-made virus having ravaged the human population (as teased in the final scene and end credits from Rise…). Gary Oldman was then revealed to be playing a rough n’ tough leader of a surviving human faction, as the footage showed him firing his gun and talking about how humanity spent four years fighting the virus (followed by four years of “fighting each other”).

Thereafter, Jason Clarke – as a fellow scrappy authoritative figure it seems – was shown to have entered the Redwood Forest from the previous film (located on the outskirts of San Francisco), where he called out that he wants to speak to Caesar. The final shot began as a closeup of a fully-rendered Caesar’s eyes, before it then pulled out wider to reveal him and his fellow apes (preparing to meet Clarke, presumably), followed by the dramatic cut to the title logo.

Check out (King?) Caesar and his ape army from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes:

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The Oscar-nominated visual effects from Weta Digital in Rise of the Planet of the Apes were something to behold, in terms of how they complimented Serkis’ performance as Caesar with rich organic details; unfortunately, the moving apes in that film tended to not reach that same level of tangibility or believability.

On the plus side, the grizzled Caesar (decked out in war paint) looks as convincing as his younger counterpart – and there’s no reason to doubt that Serkis will deliver the goods performance-wise – not to mention, the apes in the sequel ought to be more impressive in motion, seeing how many of them were portrayed by Cirque du Soleil artists (who should be more adapt at making their actions and movement seem authentic).

Other points of interest that were covered by Reeves, along with Serkis, Clarke and costar Keri Russell, in the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Comic-Con panel include:

  • Caesar, in the film, has a family, complete with a child and wife (the latter, presumably, is being played by Judy Greer).
  • The story is, once again, very Caesar-centric, but this time it examines the character within the context of the ape world (i.e. where he is king). Furthermore, the narrative is much larger-scale in general this time around.
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes will continue to bridge the gap between Rise and the original Plant of the Apes movie, but Reeves says the film is more character-oriented and psychological than plot-driven.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes opens in U.S. theaters on July 18th, 2014.