20th Century Fox set Dawn of the Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves to serve as both helmsman and co-writer on the followup to Dawn, several months before that film hit theaters. The studio's executives' instincts were off in that case either, as Dawn ended up becoming one of the most widely critically-acclaimed blockbusters of the summer (heck, of the year), and has grossed over $700 million worldwide.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes will be available on DVD and Blu-ray starting near the beginning of next month. For that reason, Reeves is now out and about not just promoting that film's home viewing release, but also fielding questions about what he has planned for Planet of the Apes 3 (not the official title, obviously) - a project he's writing alongside his Dawn scribe, Mark Bomback.
2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes introduced filmgoers to Caesar the genetically-altered chimp (portrayed via motion-capture by Andy Serkis), who evolved from being an ape trying to figure out his place in a human world, into being a revolutionary and leader for other apes. Dawn of the Planets of the Apes built on that installment by picking up with Caesar ten years later, after the human population had been decimated (due to a dangerous laboratory-produced virus) and Caesar was challenged as a leader in ape society, with his sympathies for humankind being viewed as a weakness by certain of his fellow apes.
Reeves, speaking to Coming Soon, indicated that Caesar's overarching journey from the last two installment will very much be carried over in the next Apes movie:
"The first one is sort of how [Caesar] goes from humble beginnings to becoming a revolutionary. In 'Dawn,' he really rose to occasion of becoming a leader in really challenging and difficult times. The notion of what we're after with the third is to sort of continue that trajectory and see how he becomes a seminal figure in ape history. He almost becomes sort of like an ape Moses. A mythic status... We're trying to play out those themes and continue to sort of explore it in this universe. Exploring human nature under the guise of apes."
Screen Rant's Chris Agar put together some suggestions for how to manage the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes sequel, and much of what Reeves is talking about doing with Apes 3 here - be it continuing the social/political subtext of previous films or simply keeping on playing in the rebooted Apes movie universe - is in line with those suggestions. In order for Caesar to become a "seminal figure" in the history of ape kind, though, there's going to be even more rough times ahead for the character.
Planets of the Apes 3, should it continue to progress immediately from the conclusion to Dawn, could be a war/combat movie of sorts; the Screen Rant Underground Podcast crew even all agreed that it ought to be titled War of the Planet of the Apes (or something to that effect), during their critical break-down of Dawn. Caesar, of course, would continue to be key to such a storyline, seeing as he's the link between the worlds of humans and apes - the two warring clans in the next movie - which is something else that Reeves touched on, in his talks with CS (see below).
"A thing I always found very moving was the concept of a character that was [an outsider]. Andy [Serkis] told me the way he played him and the thing that really moved me was that [Caesar] was really all about being an outsider. [He] said that [he] felt [he] was human until the one day it was made clear that that [he isn't]. [He] said it felt like heartbreak. Like, 'Oh, I'm not one of them!' Then he's thrown in with the apes, but he's not one of them either. He's an outsider to both. That was very moving to me because he's an outsider to both but connected to both. He is the unique character in this story to be able to connect between the human and the ape world."
So far, then, it sounds as though Reeves is moving in the right direction with the next Apes installment; good news since, after both Rise and Dawn achieved critical success and financial success alike, the Apes property is doing better than ever. If Reeves manages to complete this Apes film trilogy on a strong note then who knows, maybe we'll be watching additional installments featuring Caesar's descendants and/or his offspring down the line (maybe even 2-3 years after the next Apes movie)...
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes will be available on DVD and Blu-ray starting December 2nd, 2014.
Planet of the Apes 3 (official title TBA) is currently set to reach theaters on July 29th, 2016.