Based on the state of the world in the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailers, it’s clear that some time has passed between the end of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and the opening of this summer’s sequel. You might not have realized just how much time, however — a full 10 years. During that decade, the Simian Flu has ravaged the human population, whittling our numbers down drastically and setting the stage for a world where the uplifted apes can become the dominant species of the planet. That 10-year gap is the subject of three new prequel short films that lead up to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, set during the first year of the Simian Flu outbreak, the fifth year, and the tenth, respectively.
The first short, seen up top, is entitled “Quarantine.” It follows a young family in the early days of the outbreak. At first we see the couple simply trying to live their lives in a world that has slowly begun to fray at the edges, a world where surgical masks and checkpoints are becoming the norm. Then the mother catches the disease, and soon they become a family divided, with the father taking care of their daughter in an ever-harsher world, in between visits to the mother, who is living in quarantine. The short was directed by Isaiah Street, and written by Street and Brian Duffield.
Next up is “All Fall Down.” It focuses on an orphaned teenager trying to provide for herself and her younger sibling in a world of ghosts, where few people are left and she gets by on bartering items she salvages from abandoned homes. But even though things are rough, they haven’t descended into outright barbarism or chaos. The lights are still on, at least in some places. People still commune, rather than simply fighting tooth and nail for what other have and they need. Ominously, however, the girl says, “Something’s out there. I can feel it.” Yep, and his name is Caesar. This one may be my favorite of the three, as it’s got some genuinely creepy and evocative moments. The bit where she stares out into the night, knowing that something is looking back at her is unnerving as hell, capped by a picture that’s worth the proverbial thousand words: her house lit up against a field of darkness behind it, a lone symbol of a crumbling civilization. “All Fall Down” was written and directed by Daniel Thron.
And the final vid, “The Gun,” brings us up to the year Dawn begins. Making use of flashbacks, it follows a single shotgun as it passes from one person to another during the ten previous years of the outbreak. What’s striking in this one is not just the deterioration of the world, but of the people in it. We’re introduced to a man comforting a hungry young girl at a relief camp, only to the see him robbing a family at gunpoint to get food and medicine for his own child. We also see how rumors begin to spread about the nature and origins of the Simian Flu. There’s also great little visual nod to the original Planet of the Apes. “The Gun” was directed by Dylan Southern & Will Lovelace, from a script by Southern.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes swings into theaters on July 11.