Dawn of the Planet of the Apes finds its star

Rise of the Planet of the Apes was one of the best films of 2011, and certainly the most memorable.

Of all the movies I found something about to love that year, this is the one that continuously comes to mind when I think of great 2011 cinema. The effects and performance innovations were breathtaking, and left us with a modern classic fantasy film.

20th Century Fox confirmed last April that a new film was in the works to follow up the success of Rise and that everyone pertinent would be back for the second one. The studio set the release date as May 2014, which means the crew needs to finish up development and casting and begin filming in the next couple months if they want to keep to the schedule.

The director of the first film, Rupert Wyatt, previously signed on to do a trilogy, dropped out last September, citing scheduling conflicts with another project. Strangely, the only other project he’s been announced to have taken on in place of more Apes is is, Turn, a low-budget made-for TV movie about The Culper Ring. I can’t imagine that takes a lot of his time or energy to work on, and it seems strange to choose that over a major Hollywood franchise.

Whatever happened with Wyatt, 20th Century Fox, the studio behind the Apes reboot, has found a new director for the second film in the series, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Matt Reeves, known mostly for directing the shaky-cam monster flick Cloverfield in 2008, will take over the duties that Wyatt left behind, and he’s already found his lead actor in Jason Clarke, who recently appeared in Zero Dark Thirty, and gathered a lot of Hollywood attention for the role.

There is no word on what his Dawn role will be, though he will likely play the primary human character in the film. The few plot details we do have so far for the sequel make that seem like he’ll be one of a small group of researchers left alive in an underground lab, where they work to find a cure for the strange disease which accidentally gave the world to the apes. That story will run parallel to the continued saga of Caesar, the leader of the apes, played by Andy Sekris, as he secures his political dominance in the new world.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is planned for release on May 23, 2014.