Event Coverage: Dread Central Witnesses the Rise of the Planet of the Apes at CalTech Institute

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A fun fact about this writer is that I was so motivated by my love of the original Planet of the Apes, I once hand made myself and my ex Zira and Cornelius costumes for Halloween. So you can only imagine how intensely my geek senses have been tingling since the first trailer for the upcoming Rise of the Planet of the Apes dropped online courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

Last night Dread Central had the opportunity to head out to the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena for a special event that celebrated some of the breathtaking technology behind the upcoming franchise reboot and gave fans a sneak peek at never-before-seen footage from the film as well. And while I’m not at liberty to discuss the exact details of the footage (and why would you want me to spoil it for you anyway?), I am at liberty to provide general reactions to the footage that was presented.

In a nutshell, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like what WETA and director Rupert Wyatt have managed to achieve here. Sure, the motion-capture performances in Avatar were an amazing feat, but Rise of the Planet of the Apes has taken that technology to an entirely new level that left me speechless. I saw another site that was also in attendance at last night’s event say that the Oscar for visual effects should just go ahead and be awarded to the film now, and I completely agree with that statement. Everything they’ve done here felt so real that I was actually tearing up over some of the circumstances surrounding these virtual primates. The performances in the footage I saw were incredibly strong, and Wyatt managed to blend together incredible action sequences, dramatic tension and some tender moments that I’m hoping carries the rest of the movie.

Event Coverage: Dread Central Witnesses the Rise of the Planet of the Apes at CalTech Institute

We also learned during the panel that not one single primate was used during filming, but rather, the primate roles were all handled by various actors performing in motion capture suits on set working alongside the rest of the live action cast. As you can well imagine, taking that approach to Rise of the Planet of the Apes was physically challenging for all the primate actors, especially for Andy Serkis, who portrays Caesar, an advanced chimpanzee that leads a primate revolution against mankind in the film.

Serkis studied primates at one of the Dian Fossey habitats for six to eight weeks in order to prepare for his role and based a lot of his movements on the real-life humanzee that was discovered in the 1970s. Serkis, who was unable to make it out for the event, joined the panel discussion via Skype from his home in London and spoke about how he has seen motion capture change ever since his days of portraying Gollum for the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Serkis said, “Motion capture, which has now been labeled as performance capture, is no longer considered just lending your movements to something or lending your voice to a character for an animated movie. It has basically become another method of recording an actor’s performance, and in a way the technology has continued to become more sophisticated in many ways so that there’s this fantastic interface between you and the other actors on set and the director.”

Event Coverage: Dread Central Witnesses the Rise of the Planet of the Apes at CalTech Institute

“There were significant leaps from Lord of the Rings to what we did with King Kong. Then, there were huge leaps between the time of Kong and Cameron’s Avatar. But now, there have been even more strides forward with the technology since Avatar because this movie is the first one that actually uses performance capture on a live-action set for the entire shoot. We were fully integrated into the live-action shoot, and that was a very, very big leap. It’s now to the point where we’re able to bring everything together so that we can get all the filming done at once, and you can now interact with the live actors and you don’t have to go back to recapture any performances either.”

“It’s now to the point that what I did on this movie really is no different than live acting, and to me, I’ve never made a distinction between the two types of roles because I’ve always felt like I was acting even if it’s not me you’re actually seeing on the screen.”

Before the panel Dread had the opportunity to chat with the other panelists on the red carpet, which included director Wyatt, Clare Richardson of The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, Dr. Steven R. Quartz of the California Institute of Technology and Joe Letteri of WETA.

Check out our video coverage from the red carpet below, and look for more on Rise of the Planet of the Apes very soon!

A single act of both compassion and arrogance leads to a war unlike any other — and to the RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. The Oscar-winning visual effects team that brought to life the worlds of Avatar and Lord of the Rings is breaking new ground, creating a CGI ape that delivers a dramatic performance of unprecedented emotion and intelligence and epic battles on which rest the upended destinies of man and primate.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes arrives in theaters on August 5th.

Event Coverage: Dread Central Witnesses the Rise of the Planet of the Apes at CalTech Institute

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