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"Caesar is home."
With that final proclamation in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, Caesar claimed his de facto title as the king of the apes. As he climbed up the tree with his compatriots, they reached the top and overlooked the city that once held them captive. The city they used to call home: San Francisco. It was the last city they knew, and the first city to fall; because at that very moment airline pilot Douglas Hunsiker started to show the symptoms of 113 retrovirus – also known as the Simian Flu.
This is exactly where Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes – Firestorm picks up. The tie in novel, written by Greg Keyes, tells the story of the events immediately following the ending of Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, and stays grounded in year one of the Simian Flu outbreak. While the book isn't required reading to enjoy Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, Firestorm has some deep ties that bind both films together. With that in mind, here are some important details and themes to keep in mind as you watch Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes.
The Main Theme Of The Prequel Is SupremacyIn the original Planet Of The Apes series (as well as the Tim Burton remake), the story's main thrust was an allegory for racial discrimination. The apes were the establishment and the humans were the repressed minorities, forced into a subservient position in the societal structure. The prequels, however, seem to focus more on the nature of control and leadership. We see this reflected in several of the storylines told in Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes – Firestorm. Caesar's leadership of the apes is not an absolute at this time, and is still somewhat tenuous. After all, the apes just gained sentience and this is right as they're starting to stake out a home in the jungle.
As if that wasn't enough of a strain on the apes, we're introduced to a pack of private military contractors trying to hunt them in the jungle. Why exactly will be left to discuss later, but suffice it to say humanity is trying to push back against the impending doomsday they see in the streets, and they'll hunt whomever they believe is responsible. Naturally, this also means that a good old fashioned riot is going to break out, as the general public partially blames the government for the outbreak of the Simian Flu. Which means a new leader must rise and try to unite the public against the real enemy: the disease itself. This is where Gary Oldman's Dreyfus comes in, and his background is well suited for the job.
Dreyfus Comes From A Political/Law Enforcement BackgroundAt the beginning of his plotline in Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes – Firestorm, we see Dreyfus has stepped down as the chief of the San Francisco police department in the past year. His reasoning for doing so is that he is planning on running for mayor of the great city, and both he and his advisers feel he has one big issue that will be the center of his campaign: the current mayor's handling of what's become known as "Monkeygate." After all, someone has to be held to task for a bunch of primates rampaging across the Golden Gate Bridge, and the mayor has been rather quiet about the whole matter. The more the mayor forgets to say about Monkeygate, the less Dreyfus has to say about why he should be mayor.
Eventually, Dreyfus is elevated to the position of Mayor after he meets protesters on several occasions and tries to calm them down with what will go down as his trademark bullhorn speeches. Showing himself as a figure of calm and reason in the trying times ahead, he calls for Mayor House's resignation and for his successor in the chain of command to take his place. Unfortunately, the mayor's successor has the Simian Flu himself, and thus names Dreyfus as the true successor while he's still able to. Just as he's getting settled into power, he receives the last piece of news he would ever want to hear: one of his sons is sick with the Simian Flu.
Koba Has Some Really Good Reasons To Distrust HumanityWhile the focus of Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is on Caesar and Malcolm (Jason Clarke's character), the real story seems to be brewing with Dreyfus and Koba. Both are the leaders (or in Koba's case, would-be leader) who want to fight it out like warriors. In both of their cases, there's some pretty good reasoning. In Koba's case, we read his backstory playing out in increasingly brutal flashbacks of his life "in and out of labs," as Tyler Labine's Franklin (aka Patient Zero) pointed out in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes.
The untold story of Koba began in the research lab where he and his mother lived. Koba's mother was accidentally murdered by a reckless handler who got drunk and beat her with a sack of oranges. From that moment on, Koba's illusions that humanity was his friend would slowly wear away with every act of abuse and cruelty. He was half blinded and scarred by a trainer for a popular TV show he was a featured act on, and just when he thought he had seen it all, he was drafted into GenSys' ALZ-113 trials. At that point, he had decided that humanity was the enemy, and he'd already picked his first target: Gen Sys big wig and the man he's sent into the ocean via a helicopter at the end of Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, Steven Jacobs.
Koba And Caesar Are Like Thor And LokiKoba and Caesar, while both technically on the same side of the Ape/Human divide in Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes – Firestorm, tend to have differing opinions on how the entire situation should be handled. This is mostly because Caesar and Koba were both brought up in human-controlled environments, but through two very different paths. While Koba's path was of struggle and sadness, Caesar's was one of privilege and much less struggle. Caesar, as we know, wants nothing more than for the apes to be left to their own devices in the wild. Koba, on the other hand, wants to strike back against those who he feels caused him the most strife in his life.
While we don't really see a rift between Koba and Caesar in Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes – Firestorm, we can see the start of one. Koba's rough upbringing has lead to him wanting to actively engage and subjugate the humans, but he also wants to make Caesar proud. Caesar still trusts Koba at this point, and even names him point-man in the final battle against the humans in the Muir Woods at the end of Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes – Firestorm. This is Koba's first taste of leadership, and he really likes it. Compounded with whatever events happen in Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, we can see just how much Caesar and Koba represent Thor and Loki respectively. There's two kings, but only one throne.
The Simian Flu Isn't The Only Thing Destroying CivilizationAs if humanity didn't have enough of a problem in Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes – Firestorm, there are massive riots breaking out all over the world. This is a result of a news report by journalist/ Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes – Firestorm protagonist David Flynn. It's Flynn who breaks the story of a conspiracy of silence between the remaining leadership of Gen Sys, the private military contractor hunting the apes in the Muir Woods, and San Francisco's disgraced Mayor House. Their goal: to keep the ape insurrection contained and to obtain a live specimen for vaccine development. Hospitals and government buildings find themselves becoming mob central, as rumors of a cure spread as quickly as the Simian Flu itself.
Of course, the mobs demanding answers give way to bigger mobs of general violence among groups that have routinely had it out for each other. Hutus and Tutsis, Sunnis and Shi'ites, Serbs and Croates – all ready to fight it out to the end of the species. A more specific, more local threat that's located in San Francisco is a mob known as the Alpha-Omega gang. moving around all of the quarantine zones with one purpose: to kill all of the infected. This mob is also a clever reference to the atomic device of the same name from Beneath The Planet Of The Apes. Its leader is a suburban teenager who feels he's doing the world a favor by purifying the city. Unfortunately for him, Dreyfus puts him into one of the very quarantines he's been targeting, signifying the start of his turn toward vengeful rule.
We Still Don't Know Exactly What Happened To WillOne particular link that seems to be hidden in plain sight throughout Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes – Firestorm is that of Doctor Will Rodman, James Franco's lead character from Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. When we last saw him, Will and Caesar had bitter-sweetly parted ways. Of course, this wasn't before Koba tried to beat Will in his anger against all things human and Gen Sys related, which is an event that's still fresh in mind of both primate "brothers." Caesar in particular wonders where Will is throughout Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes – Firestorm, and as we see in the trailer for the film, he's still wondering.
Will's story, much like the story of the years between Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes and Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, is one that has a lot of gaps that need filling. Sure, Will can be assumed as dead, between the rioting and the Simian flu, but it's highly unlikely as the flu was created as a direct result of his own genetic lineage and he wouldn't have stuck around for long once he saw things going south back in the city. Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes – Firestorm starts to tell a story that Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is the eventual end result of. It is a particularly excellent prequel that practically promises a series of novels following it that continue to detail the years between the two films. Here's hoping it's a promise that those in charge live up to.
Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes – Firestorm is in bookstores now, and you could easily plow through it while waiting in line for the 10 PM showing of Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes. Unless you're going to the 7 PM double feature, in which case you can always read it afterwards.