20th Century Fox and director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) have rapidly assembled a motley crew of human actors to battle our new primate overlords in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the sequel to the critically and financially successful Apes franchise reboot Rise of the Planet of the Apes (itself, a quasi-prequel to the Planet of the Apes movie released in 1968).
Dawn… continues the more science-fiction heavy approach of Rise…, which forgoes the overtly satirical tone of both the original Planet of the Apes movie featuring Charlton Heston and Pierre Boulle’s source novel (as well as the 2001 re-imagining from director Tim Burton). We’ve learned that it picks 15 years after the events of Rise…, when humanity has been ravaged by a lab-produced virus.
Variety is saying that Keri Russell has joined the Dawn… cast as its human female lead, who is presumably one of the few surviving San Francisco residents banding together after the collapse of human society. This marks a reunion for Russell and Reeves, as the latter co-created her breakout TV series Felicity with J.J. Abrams. Moreover, this continues Rusell’s climb to (re)gaining a higher status as an actress, in combination with her roles in the sci-fi/horror flick Dark Skies and the new FX television drama The Americans.
On the non-human side: the main attraction is once more Andy Serkis reprising his motion-capture performance as the ape revolution leader Caesar. While our simian protagonist is no longer dealing with an identity crisis (meaning his adapted father James Franco won’t play a significant role, if any), he must now deal with the crown sitting uneasily atop his head as the leader of ape civilization.
The remainder of the human cast in Dawn… includes actor Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty), Oscar-nominee Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight trilogy) and Kodi-Smit McPhee, who worked with Reeves before on his vampire drama/remake Let Me In. Similar to Russell, their specific roles are currently being kept secret; though, their respective ages offer clues about their characters, such as how McPhee might well be playing a teenager who doesn’t even remember when humans ruled the world.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes screenwriters Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver wrote the first script draft for Dawn…, which was later revised by Mark Bomback (Live Free or Die Hard, The Wolverine) when Reeves boarded as director. With a promising story devised by those writers and the strong cast selected by Reeves, this sequel has the potential to be another solid addition to the Planet of the Apes franchise.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes opens in theaters on May 23rd, 2014.