Fox is gearing up to shoot Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in the Spring, with Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) taking over as director and Andy Serkis reprising his lauded motion-capture performance as simian revolutionary Caesar from Rise of the Planet of the Apes - the 2011 prequel/reboot that restored life to the 45-year old sci-fi movie franchise.
Dawn picks up fifteen years after the events of Rise, which culminated with Caesar escaping the confines of an abusive primate sanctuary and leading his fellow non-human inmates to seek refuge in the forest near San Francisco. Meanwhile, human kind has been ravaged by the genetically-engineered virus inadvertently unleashed during the previous film, leaving most of the population dead (including Caesar's adapted human father and the scientist responsible, played by James Franco).
Heat Vision is reporting that one of the human leads in Dawn is Jason Clarke, though his character remains under-wraps. The most recent script draft penned by Mark Bomback (The Wolverine), who came aboard after Reeves took over from Rise director Rupert Wyatt, features two story threads, which can be summarized as follows:
One focus is on the group of human scientists who are struggling to survive alone in San Francisco. Another aspect of the story is the struggle of intelligent ape Caesar, played by a returning Andy Serkis, to maintain dominance over his kingdom.
Clarke has been in the 'biz for almost twenty years, appearing on television shows like Brotherhood and The Chicago Code, as well as playing roles in such films as Public Enemies, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and Lawless in recent years. However, it's his performance as an unflinching interrogator (re: torturer) in Zero Dark Thirty that's helping to catapult him to leading man status, similar to his ZDT costar Chris Pratt joining Guardians of the Galaxy. In addition, Clarke appears in Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby and Roland Emmerich's White House Down in the upcoming months. Suffice it to say, he's having a good year already.
Wyatt balanced B-movie action and thrills with a Shakespearean tragedy of fathers and sons in Rise, with audiences proving very responsive to his approach telling the story from Caesar's perspective. However, in my humble opinion, the movie was not as effective with human elements and political overtones as it might have been, and by the sound of things, the sequel is already taking steps to improve in those areas.
Reeves, if nothing else, knows how to craft an entertaining blockbuster, while also finding the emotional core of a story (even within a far-fetched sci-fi setting). Similarly, for me, Clarke is a definite upgrade in the leading (hu)man category over Franco, so this particular sequel appears to be on the right track, taking all things into consideration.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes opens in theaters on May 23rd, 2014.