"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" surprised nearly everyone back in 2011 by delivering an emotional and smart sci-fi story that made summer movie audiences sympathize with a chimpanzee named Caesar.
On Wednesday morning (December 18), the first trailer for the follow-up, "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," brought us back to the world of super-intelligent simians, but things have changed — and not for the better. What is the same, however, is the mature approach to the genre and an otherwise ridiculous premise.
With a promising trailer already out for the "Godzilla" reboot, 2014 is shaping up to be a huge year for mature science fiction. Now that you've watched the trailer a million times, let's take a look back at what we learned from the preview for "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes."
Eight Hard Years
Our first look at "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" throws us straight into a world nothing like the one we previously saw in "Rise." The global virus teased at the end of the reboot has devastated civilization, and the confusion has turned the survivors against each other. Dreyfus, played by Gary Oldman, offers a nice recap of recent history once the story picks up.
"We've been through hell together. We spent four years fighting that virus and then another four fighting each other," he says. "It was chaos." For humans, things have never been harder, and the fact that there's now a group of super-intelligent apes probably doesn't help matters much.
A New Hero
James Franco's character from "Rise," Will Rodman, is nowhere to be seen in the trailer, so at this point, it's safe to assume that he didn't fare so well during the pandemic. This time, our human connection is Malcolm, played by Jason Clarke (who may be John Connor in the next "Terminator" movie). Malcolm, in what seems to be an act of desperation, crosses over into the apes' territory to speak with Caesar. We're not given many clues as to what he wants to chat about, but we're left with the impression that he wants to make a deal with the primate leader.
A New Villain
After Dreyfus summarizes the previous eight years for us, his speech takes on a more ominous slant. "You all know what we're up against," he says. "And I want you to know that it's not just about power; it's about giving us the hope to rebuild and reclaim the world that we lost."
Now to us, that doesn't appear to be a call for peaceful harmony between the humans and the apes, especially once we see Dreyfus firing that machine gun. If he has an audience for the speech, this could escalate into an all-out war between the divided groups.
A Changed Caesar
Caesar, once again gloriously brought to life by Andy Serkis, is a different ape. In the intervening years between "Rise" and "Dawn," something has changed within him, and it shows in the stark close-up that dominants the screen for the second half of the preview. It's an interesting creative choice for the trailer, not only because the visual is obviously haunting, but it also reestablishes Caesar as an essential emotional connection for the movies. Fans who loved the Caeser-focused aspects of "Rise" should take this as a sign that the spirit of the original lives on.
The zoom-out from Caesar's face reveals that his followers sit closely behind, armed to the teeth. In the transition from "Rise" to "Dawn," the apes have inched closer to the militaristic society that we know from the original series. The presence of weapons also suggests that the tension between the humans and the apes will come to a head in a violent way.
"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" opens in theaters on July 11, 2014.