It’s called an “official trailer,” but the new ad for “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is really more of a tease.
In fact, stress “tease.” Due in July, the James Franco-less sequel to “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” the shockingly successful reboot of a once-dead franchise, only hints at what’s ensued since the big cliffhanger. (Also, seriously, was Franco finally too busy?) Apparently the disease that spread in that one’s final moments has wiped out much of humanity. Luckily there are still guns, plus Gary Oldman in what looks like nice guy mode. Meanwhile, the apes (and chimps and orangutans and gorillas, presumably) have stayed in the woods, nursing their hatred for humanity.
Whatever’s going on, this admittedly sounds more realistic than what happened in the original series, which ran from 1968 to 1973. But is that a good thing? As you’ll recall, the third one (“Escape From the Planet of the Apes”) sent three of the nicer apes (Kim Hunter, Roddy McDowall and Sal Mineo) back to the 1970s. There, they were first embraced then persecuted by suspicious and bigoted humans. By the fourth (“Conquest of the Planet of the Apes”), apes were essentially slaves, and their spectacularly messy rebellion made the film one of the few Hollywood products that joyously depicted an actual slave revolt.
Considered disposable junk by the masses, with a new, increasingly cheaper installment out every year, the original “Apes” run is actually quite fascinating, steeped as it is in civil rights era references, language and imagery. It’s not surprising that this new series — plus Tim Burton’s weak 2001 remake — has nothing much on its mind, except that some humans are jerks. “Rise” was shallow but it had a pleasant shape and another terrific motion-capture performance from Andy Serkis, as ape pal-turned-rebel Caesar. “Dawn” is the chance to up the stakes, but even if it’s more of the same, that’s more or less okay.
More importantly, will it feature Paul Williams’ orangutan from “Battle of the Planet of the Apes?”