[Warning: Mild SPOILERS for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ahead]
This summer, it’s time for war. No, not a Marvel-vs-DC war (that’s not until 2016), but a war between hairy hominoids and not-so-hairy hominoids in Matt Reeves’ sci-fi sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. With one tribe led by Caesar (Andy Serkis) and the other led by Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), the long period of estrangement between humans and apes is about to come to an end.
To recap, Rise of the Planet of the Apes went right back to the origins of the apes’ super-intelligence: a man-made “cure” for Alzheimer’s disease that – when tested on apes – gifted them with IQs equivalent to or even greater than that of the average human. When let loose upon the human population, however, a strengthened form of this virus had the unfortunate side effect of killing everyone it came into contact with. Whoops. Luckily, science is all about learning from mistakes.
During this year’s WonderCon, /Film attended a screening of several clips from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and has published a summary of the scenes that were shown. Taken primarily from the first act of the movie, the footage shown established both the humans and the apes in a world that has been ravaged and rebuilt, both tying into what we’ve already learned about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and providing some intriguing new details.
How far they’ve come
“In the first scene, we see two apes spearing some fish. They’re talking with subtitles.
“Scene two shows the ape council, Caesar among them, talking about what to do. The first 15-20 minutes of this movie are all of the Ape world so we’re familiar with their different speech patterns and rudimentary English.”
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes takes place 10 years after the end of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and, as stills from the movie have demonstrated, that’s enough time for them to learn horse-riding and even how to operate guns.
Communication is another matter. In the first film, the scenes showing Caesar’s time in the ape sanctuary were virtually dialogue-free and relied upon ape body language (and occasional sign language) to develop the ape characters and their relationships. At eight years old, having been born with enhanced intelligence and raised in a human household, Caesar was still only able to speak a small handful of words. Because of this slow learning curve, director Matt Reeves has explained, the other apes’ grasp of language in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is still quite limited.
Survival of the fittest
“The apes have migrated into the woods and begun to build their own society. They’ve built homes, government and a way of life that’s under the assumption the humans are all gone.
“Unlike the apes who’ve thrived since the virus spread, the humans have struggled with few resources and the loss of their friends and family. Humans blame the apes for the virus, which was named ‘the simian flu.'”
The virus isn’t the only reason that humans are failing where the apes are thriving. As dialogue from a recent TV spot for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes explained, Caesar’s tribe are able to live easily off the land without need of light, heating or electrical appliances. The humans, however, grew accustomed to having a social infrastructure and were practically pampered before the virus outbreak, which means that with their everyday luxuries stripped away they lack the instincts and experience needed to survive.
“Later in the film, it seems as if the apes and humans have begun to co-exist a bit, and Caesar agrees to help them with a mission in the woods. The fourth scene screened showed Caesar’s little baby running up on Keri Russell’s character in a very playful way. The character treats the baby very kindly and warmly, but one of her companions questions that, as does a nervous Caesar.
“In the fifth scene shown, Maurice, the huge ape from the first film, visits the humans camping in the woods and Kodi Smith-McPhee’s character gives him a book. The two flip through and book and the human reads to the ape.”
With their community under enough strain as it is, picking a fight with the apes would not be a wise movie for the humans. A peace treaty, on the other hand, could open up the possibility of trade and of the two tribes learning from one another. Caesar was raised by humans and has seen them both at their best and at their worst, so it’s understandable that he would be both hesitant about declaring war and wary of placing total trust in the humans.
The apes of war
“Caesar is proud they’ve built a ‘Home, family, future,’ and doesn’t want to go to war. He knows war will put that future in danger but other apes distrust the humans. Koba, one of the apes from the first movie, approaches Caesar after the meeting and tells him, he knows war is a risk and they can lose everything, but they must show their strength. Caesar says he knows and they will.
“Two humans [are] standing watch and an ape comes up to them. They’re unsure of the ape’s intentions, but he does a bunch of playful things and they begin to laugh and trust him. He rolls up next to them and asks for a drink of whiskey. They oblige and he spits it out. They all laugh and things seem great, until the apes rolls towards one man and steals his machine gun. Everyone steps back, hoping maybe it was a mistake, but when the ape unloads the clip into one of the humans, we know it was not.”
It’s not exactly a spoiler to say that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes probably isn’t going to end with the ape tribe and the human tribe standing around at a pool party, sipping cocktails and celebrating the start of a strong and enduring alliance. It’s not called Dawn of the Planet of the Humans and Apes, after all.
The marketing so far has made no secret of the fact that this is ultimately a war movie, between posters of Caesar and his allies decked out in war paint and the foreboding tone of the trailers. What is yet unknown is what exactly the catalyst for the end of negotiations and the start of conflict will be – though an ape emptying a machine gun clip into a human probably counts as a declaration of hostilities.
Based on the footage shown so far, it sounds like both the human and the ape camps will have sympathetic characters – as well as less-than-sympathetic characters – so when Dawn of the Planet of the Apes hits theaters this summer it may be difficult to decide which side to root for.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is out in theaters on July 11, 2014.