Rupert Wyatt managed to revitalize the Planet of the Apes franchise with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, following a ten-year dormancy period after the release of Tim Burton's lucrative, but critically-disparged, 're-imagining' of the property. He chose to pass on a followup - Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - prompting Fox to draw up a shortlist of potential replacements, topped by Matt Reeves (who recently struck a development deal with the television sector of the studio).
Reports are in that Reeves is now formally set to helm the latest Apes installment. Production should be getting underway soon, as Fox intends to keep the May 2014 release date it announced a few months back.
It didn't take long for Fox to get the ball rolling on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, well before the project even had a title (beyond the traditional 'Planet of the Apes' suffix). The studio set Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver to work on the script shortly after Rise of the Planet of the Apes had proven to be successful; some time thereafter, Contagion screenwriter Scott Z. Burns was reportedly hired to do some rewrites, essentially confirming that the film will focus directly on the fallout from a human-engineered virus (unleashed on the population at the conclusion of Rise).
Deadline confirms with its report on Reeves assuming directorial duties for Dawn, describing Jaffa and Silver's script draft as "a natural extension of the first film [which] seamlessly set up the apocalyptic sequel plotline." Andy Serkis is returning as the genetically-altered ape Caesar; though, most of the humans in Rise won't be following suit (seeing how they are already dead). However, James Franco - who played the scientist responsible for creating said apocalyptic virus - remains a strong possibility, for obvious reasons.
Wyatt did an excellent job directing Rise, combining together elements of a prison escape thriller with a coming-of-age melodrama and traditional sci-fi cautionary tale - all told from the POV of a non-human protagonist. The script left something to be desired, in terms of interesting human characters (not to mention, logistics of how humanity brings about its own doom). However, Dawn could easily improve on its predecessor in those areas, now that the apocalypse storyline is moving forward full-steam ahead (and the ape-revolution is underway).
Reeves, as it were, is in some ways a better 'fit' for Dawn than Wyatt. The latter had directed the prison escape tale The Escapist prior to working on Rise, but his lack of experience with big-budget fare reportedly made for something of a tense shoot. By comparison, hiring on the filmmaker who has made an engaging disaster flick with limited, but effective, use of CGI (Cloverfield) and showed a knack for character-oriented storytelling with Let Me In, could result in an Apes sequel that improves on its predecessor (and may be less stressful to make).
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes remains scheduled to open in U.S. theaters on May 23rd, 2014.
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