You’ve gotta feel for Caesar the ape: He was completely domesticated in 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, only to be betrayed and abused by humans when taken away from James Franco’s loving home and subjected to the torture of the Bryan Cox family. Is it any wonder he led an ape rebellion? But he’s still got a soft spot for his more (less?) evolved homo erectus brethren — and the new trailer for next month’s sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes shows how problematic that is. We also see just how evolved the apes have become: They now talk like humans, and fight like humans.
This new glimpse fleshes out more of the story, setting up the conflict between Caesar’s idyllic ape community and Gary Oldman’s enclave of human virus survivors in a crumbling San Francisco neighborhood. Oldman is a warmonger bent on attacking the apes lest they attack first; a scene of him weeping over pictures of his kids (presumably killed by the virus) paints him as reminiscent of The Walking Dead's Governor, a beloved leader driven to war by paranoia and misplaced rage. Jason Clarke, a family man, is the platonic Romeo to Caesar's Juliet, two kindred spirits trying but failing to stop their bloodthirsty compadres from hurtling into war against each other.
The apes have clearly learned a lot in the decade since the virus: Now they not only speak full sentences (“I’m sorry, my friend. War has begun”), but they can also ride horses and — more problematically — wield guns. A very brutal showdown looks to be brewing.
One of the issues not addressed here: How do the horses feel about all of this? One minute animals are all on the same level, and the next apes are saddling up horses and treating them as transportation. That’s hardly fair; the laws of nature decree that animals can eat each other — the food chain is what it is — but to ride each other? That’s just rude.