By Edward Davis | The Playlist February 23, 2013 at 3:00PM
In a season that saw big, expected hits like "Cowboys & Aliens" and "Green Lantern" fumble hard, 20th Century Fox's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" was the surprise summer hit of 2011. Released in early August, many weren't expecting a lot from the film (especially critics) given its motley crew cast and its lead, James Franco, who seemed like he was performing in the wrong movie. It didn't matter. The MVPs of the film were the extraordinarily realistic (and suprisingly emotional) CGI apes, the motion capture work of Andy Serkis as lead ape Caesar, and director Rupert Wyatt, who quickly saw his name shoot up to the most-wanted list. The film took in close to $500 million worldwide and so obviously, a sequel was green lit.
But franchise cynicism aside, the sequel, "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" sounds better and better with each passing day. Sure, there were bumps along the way on the road to development: Wyatt bailed, James Franco said he would not return and "Contagion" writer Scott Z. Burns' script was ditched in favor of one by "Live Free Or Die Hard" screenwriter Mark Bomback, but the list of talent involved is great. "Cloverfield" filmmaker Matt Reeves is directing, "Zero Dark Thirty" breakout star Jason Clarke was recently announced as part of the ensemble and just announced as part of the cast is Kodi Smit-McPhee, the co-lead of Reeves' last excellent vampire drama, "Let Me In."
The now 16-year-old Smit-McPhee also appeared in John Hillcoat's "The Road" and has at least two more interesting project set to come out, including Ari Folman's "The Congress" with Robin Wright and Jake Paltrow's "The Young Ones" with Nicholas Hoult and Elle Fanning. Also on the way is a new version of "Romeo & Juliet" starring Hailee Steinfeld as adapted by "Downton Abbey" creator Julian Fellowes wherein Smit-McPhee will play Benvolio.
"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" is set to arrive in theaters May 23, 2014.