Twentieth Century Fox may have failed to launch a franchise earlier this month when Fantastic Four came and went, but the studio is still in pretty good shape when it comes to tentpoles. One of their more successful properties over the past few years has been the rebooted Planet of the Apes series, with last summer's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes earning widespread critical acclaim (read our review) and earning $708 million worldwide at the box office.
As such, expectations for the followup - believed to be dubbed War of the Planet of the Apes - are sky high and fans can't wait to see what becomes of Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his primate community next. And even though the threequel won't hit theaters until July 2017, director Matt Reeves is hard at work on pre-production, casting one of the film's human characters ahead of principal photography starting.
Deadline is reporting that relative unknown Gabriel Chavarria has scored one of two lead human roles in War of the Planet of the Apes. Details on the type of character he'll play were nonexistent, but it should serve as a nice career boost for the actor. His résumé includes works like Aquarius, Prime Suspect, and Southland. He is also set to star in Universal's car drama Low Rider, which is expected to be released in 2016.
Some fans may be disappointed that Dawn human star Jason Clarke is not returning, but much like James Franco in series starter Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Clarke's Malcolm seems to have served his purpose in Caesar's larger story. Given the history of the series, it shouldn't be surprising that Reeves is switching up the human cast once again. It should be interesting to see what Chavarria's relationship with Caesar is like in War of the Planet of the Apes. So far, both human leads (Franco and Clarke) have been the ape's ally; perhaps this time, that role will be a threat to Caesar and his friends?
The Deadline report also notes that Reeves will begin rolling his cameras in October in Vancouver. That may seem a tad early when one considers the 2017 release date, but Apes is a film that will almost definitely have a lengthy post-production process, as all of the ape characters will need to be filled out digitally. Not only that, Serkis' schedule has gotten a little more full recently. He's currently working on his directorial effort Jungle Book: Origins and theoretically could have recurring roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Ulysses Klaw) and the Star Wars saga (Supreme Leader Snoke) - which also has a film due in 2017. So there are many reasons why Fox would want to start production now.
With this news, it's extremely likely that in the next month we learn more about the anticipated War of the Planet of the Apes. Viewers will be most interested in who that second human lead will be, and how they'll factor into the story. People will also have a close eye on the timeline of the new film, especially after Dawn went ahead a full decade after Rise. The last film ended on something of a cliffhanger, so most would probably opt for something that picks up shortly after Dawn's climax. Regardless, Reeves has earned the goodwill of fans and should be able to continue the narrative of ape Moses Caesar in a truly compelling way.
War of the Planet of the Apes hits theaters July 14th, 2017.