Brow Beat

Monkeys on Horses With Assault Rifles: The Trailer for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Oh, and they also have shotguns.

© 2013 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

There’s a lot of drama in the first full trailer for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, but the image that will stick with me is this one: Apes riding on horses with assault rifles. The Planet of the Apes franchise, it seems, is getting even sillier, while trying to maintain a serious face.

That pose, at least, worked for the first movie, which managed to make a movie about super-smart monkeys into something like an animal-rights manifesto, with elements of Elizabethan tragedy. It was that Shakespearean chimpanzee, of course—named after the title character in Julius Caesar—that was the breakout star, and here it’s clear that Andy Serkis’ tragic hero will take center stage, even giving his own monkey version of the St. Crispin’s Day speech.

The risk is that the more our tragedy centers around talking apes, the more it threatens to devolve into something laughable. (With the machine-gun-totin’ raccoon of Guardians of the Galaxy taking aim in August, could this be the summer of fuzzy animals brandishing automatic weapons?) But this trailer suggests it just might work. The same writers are back, and there’s a new director, Matt Reeves, who also helmed the surprisingly good American remake Let Me In, which managed to rival its excellent Swedish predecessor.

And the more we see of Serkis and WETA’s co-creation, the more I’m hoping that Serkis might finally earn his Oscar (or at least a nomination). We’ll have to wait until July 11 to find out whether “Apes. Together. Strong.” or “Apes. Together. Silly.”