The sequence of the new Planet of the Apes prequels is a little confusing if you think too hard about it - after all, wouldn't it be more logical for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes to come before Rise of the Planet of the Apes? Doesn't the dawn happen before the sun rises? Perhaps to distract from this puzzling conundrum, Twentieth Century Fox has teamed up with Motherboard to answer another important question: what happened between the Rise and the Dawn?
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes picks up an entire decade after the end of the previous film, and the horrors of those ten years have been alluded to in the trailers by Gary Oldman's character, Dreyfus: "We spent four years - four years! - fighting that virus and then another four fighting each other. It was chaos."
To offer a little more detail, Motherboard has produced a trilogy of short films - titled Before the Dawn - that show humanity's struggle for survival as civilization falls down around their ears. The first, "Quarantine", is a vignette set in Year One, about a mother who becomes separated from her partner and daughter after contracting the so-called "Simian flu" and being placed in quarantine. The second, "All Fall Down", is about another young mother attempting to make a living five years after the outbreak, in one of the last few areas that has electricity. Finally "The Gun" follows the story of a shotgun over the ten years between the first spread of the virus and the start of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
All three short films are great and well worth watching now in order to have extra context for when Dawn of the Planet of the Apes finally arrives in theaters. Since it was made on a relatively limited budget, Before the Dawn doesn't show any cutting-edge performance capture chimps or orang-utans, but the apes do make an appearance on the periphery of humanity's story.
If you're seriously strapped for time and can only watch one of these movies, "The Gun" is probably the best of the selection, partially because it cheats and shows the entire span of the ten years rather than just a single year. The narrative cleverly shows the parallels between the gun steadily becoming more battered and its various owners losing track of their morality in the desperate fight for survival. It also strays a lot closer to the fringes of the ape story than either of the other films.
Speaking of apes, Motherboard also released today a short documentary (also in association with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) called "The Real Planet of the Apes". The documentary is about an island in Liberia that has been effectively taken over by ex-laboratory chimps who were experimented upon for years before their release. Let's hope they never decide to take revenge.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes arrives in theaters on July 11th, 2014.