The upcoming Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a very different sci-fi film than its predecessor, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and not just because it takes place in a dystopian future where global human civilization has collapsed (unlike Rise‘s present-day setting). Picking up ten years after where Rise left off, Dawn features an older version of the genetically-altered chimpanzee Caesar – once again played by Andy Serkis via motion-capture – who is now a father, as well as the leader of an ape community that currently numbers in the thousands (and growing).
Diminishing supplies force the human survivors in San Francisco – the source of the Simian Flu that wiped out much of humanity – to venture out into the nearby wilderness, where they discover the existence of Caesar and his peers, who’re previously believed to have been wiped out years before. This contributes to growing tension spilling over into conflict between the humans and apes, with Caesar preparing for war even as those on the other side (see: Jason Clarke and Keri Russell’s characters) attempt to pacify the situation before that actually happens.
That humans are ill-equipped to survive in a post-apocalyptic world is the topic discussed in the first Dawn of the Planet of the Apes TV spot. It’s all the more appropriate that the clip aired during The Walking Dead season 4 finale “A”, as the latter deals with the notion that, in a ruined world, humanity’s just as likely to be destroyed from within as it is by exterior forces. In the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer, Gary Oldman’s character (a leader among the humans in San Francisco) likewise discusses how people have spent much of the last ten years fighting one another, before they recognized and united against the outside threats they share in common.
Serkis recently said that the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes screenplay – featuring contributions by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) as well as Mark Bomback (The Wolverine) – deals with very meaningful themes about the dangers of tribalism and the importance of being able to sympathize with “the other.” Those ideas are filtered through the experiences and journey of Caesar, who is more than just a ruler struggling to deal with the increasingly heavy weight of his crown; he was also raised by humans, which makes him the key to brokering a peace between the two sides – assuming they don’t wipe each other out first.
If that wasn’t enough, Caesar is also a father now, meaning he has to balance caring for his wife Cornelia (played by Judy Greer) and his children with his commitment to the growing ape kingdom, in addition to taking steps to prevent a full-out war. That the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes protagonist has a family is something that’s been left out of the film’s marketing so far, though that changes today, with a new poster (an exclusive to Collider) that shows Caesar holding his small offspring in a protective manner.
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Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) was the director on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and has already begun moving forward with development on a followup installment that has been set to arrive in 2016, similar to other followups to 2014 franchise releases, like Amazing Spider-Man 3 and X-Men: Apocalypse. Franchise building is the norm in Hollywood nowadays, of course, but just as much as the aforementioned superhero properties, the Apes series is moving in a very specific direction, story-wise.
The idea, according to Oldman, is that Reeves wants to tell “more of a human story,” before he gets into setting up the ape-dominated world – similar to the one glimpsed in the very first Planet of the Apes movie released in 1968 – with the concluding chapter in this modern Apes trilogy. It’ll be interesting to see how well Reeves manages at that task, though if early signs prove to be accurate, then he could hit it out of the ballpark on this approaching installment.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes opens in U.S. theaters on July 11th, 2014.