[Warning: This video/article contains MILD SPOILERS.]
This year, Oscar-nominee Gary Oldman appears in the latest installments in two long-running geek-favorite sci-fi franchises, RoboCop and Planet of the Apes. In the case of the former, the movie in question is a retooling of the 1980s-born futuristic crime/action property – featuring Oldman as one of the scientists responsible for designing the eponymous cyborg police officer – while the latter is Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, a sequel to 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes (a prequel/semi-reboot for the previous Apes movies).
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes picks up a decade after Rise, as the Simian Flu (which, if you recall, was inadvertently unleashed in the previous film) has led to the collapse of human civilization. A ragtag group of people continues to survive in the remains of San Francisco, but are soon faced with a new threat – a small army of hyper-intelligent apes, headed by the genetically-enhanced simian who started their revolution, Caesar (once again brought to life through a combination of CGI and motion-capture performance by Andy Serkis).
So, who is Oldman playing in Apes, and where does his character lie in the hierarchy of things following the collapse of human society? Well, if you watch the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes teaser trailer, then you’ll probably be able to deduce that Oldman – as a man named Dreyfus – is a militaristic type who’s assumed a leadership position of sorts. During a recent MTV interview to promote RoboCop, Oldman confirmed as much and then revealed the event that sets the film’s primary conflict in motion:
“He’s the sort of designated leader if you will of this community of those that were lucky enough to survive the simian flu, the disease, and then the ensuing social uprising from it…. And they need power and there’s a power station and some of my people go out to see if it’s operational, if it’s still out there, and then they discover that there’s a whole community of apes living there. We believed they were all completely fire-bombed and wiped out…”
While other humans (specifically, Jason Clarke) attempt to reach a peace with the apes, Oldman’s character doesn’t believe their differences can be resolved through peaceful means. Nonetheless, the actor indicated to MTV that Dreyfus will be a fairly complex and sympathetic antagonist – or protagonist, depending on whose perspective you look at it from (the humans or apes) – when Oldman explained “He’s experienced a great loss, personally, and there’s only one answer for him and that’s to wipe [the apes] out. I see him as a sort of the hero of the piece.”
While Caesar’s attempts to do right by his chimp wife (Judy Greer) and offspring – as well as keep a steady controlling hand on the growing ape kingdom – under the increasingly heavy weight of his (figurative) crown will be explored in Dawn, Oldman told MTV that director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) wanted to keep the focus more on the human characters – whose ranks include Keri Russell (The Americans) and Kodi-Smit McPhee (Romeo and Juliet).
“Matt Reeves was more interested in not just keeping the franchise alive but he wanted to make it more of a human story, he wanted to explore what had happened and keep it more focused to the human side of it before the story becomes the ‘Planet of the Apes’ as we know it from the first one, from the original.”
Reeves is currently writing the script for the next Planet of the Apes installment (which he will also direct), along with Dawn co-writer Mark Bomback, with an eye on a 2016 theatrical release date. Judging by Oldman’s comments, it sounds as though Reeves might’ve had a relatively formed idea in mind for where the third chapter in the current Apes continuity will go, even while he was shooting the second film – something that would make his being hired for Planet of the Apes 3 all the smarter a move, from both an investor and creative perspective (see: this week’s Screen Rant Underground Podcast discussion about using the TV series show-runner model with movie franchises).
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes opens in theaters on July 11th, 2014.
Planet of the Apes 3 (not the official title) arrives in theaters on July 29th, 2016.