One of the big surprises of the summer of 2011 was just how damn good Rupert Wyatt's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" was. There wasn't a whole lot of buzz about the movie beforehand, aside from what seemed like an incredibly-truncated production schedule for a movie that was so grand in scope and scale, especially considering how the apes were being brought to life for the first time with next-gen performance capture technology. But it totally worked, delivering an expert mixture of rollercoaster thrills and genuine emotional gravitas. What wasn't much of a surprise was how quickly Fox got to work on a proposed sequel, with Wyatt returning and a script being commissioned from "Contagion" writer Scott Z. Burns. But as development continued, Wyatt dropped out and scripting duties went back to the first film's writers, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver. We got to talk to Burns about his upcoming psychosexual thriller "Side Effects" (opening this week), but we were also curious about what he had planned for the 'Apes' sequel.
"I had a great time working on 'Apes,'" Burns enthused. "I love science fiction and I think that it's, in contrast to ['Side Effects'], an awesome opportunity to do social commentary in a really fun way. Rupert Wyatt and I worked on a script that I loved and I had a great time doing that." But Burns adds that his removal was fairly typical. "Then Rupert and the studio parted ways and, as sometimes happens, when the director leaves the studio through the front door, the writer is frequently thrown out the second story window," he joked. "When they brought in a new director, they brought in a new writer. So I don't know how much of what they did they will still be using, because what we did was really fun and I was really happy with the work we were doing."
At one point Wyatt had said he toyed with the idea of having the sequel be a kind of "Full Metal Jacket" of "Planet of the Apes," where you would see the ape society militarize and follow chimp Caesar (Andy Serkis) as he becomes a revolutionary leader. Burns confirmed that this was indeed in the cards. "Yeah it had a bit of that," Burns said. But, of course, given the concerns and intelligence of the filmmakers involved, there was way more to it: "It also, it really explored the notion of peaceful coexistence and compromise versus extremism and conflict and that kind of inherent issue and how you get along with the other."
We'll see how much of this conceit remains when "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," now directed by "Let Me In" director Matt Reeves, opens on May 23, 2014.