With Andy Serkis, director Matt Reeves, and producer Dylan Clark in attendance, a packed house of press and fans were treated to a different sort of sneak preview of War for the Planet of the Apes at this year’s New York Comic Con.
As is usually the case with any project where Andy Serkis displays his mo-cap artistry, Reeves and Clark could not gush enough, emphasizing that in this film they strove to elevate the level of technology available so more of Serkis’ performance would shine through.
Our first clip consisted of behind-the-scenes footage showing the actors in full mo-cap gear doing their thing. This was a pretty standard sort of DVD extra fare, and if it had been the only thing we watched, you would have thought the newest film was more of the same that we saw in the sequel. Luckily, there was more to come.
This new film takes place two years after the last, with war raging full tilt. Caesar feels that if he could have figured out what was going on in Koba’s heart, he might have all the answers today… avoiding war and the tragic events that led to his brother’s death. Ape does not kill ape, and the decision weighs heavily on him. Caesar remembers his time with the humans and knows there are good people among them, but his first priority is to protect the apes. This conflict has made him bitter… distrustful of humans… and visibly tired of death.
He now goes head to head with Woody Harrelson’s character, Colonel, who leads the human army… the resistance. Colonel will do anything to ensure the survival of mankind. He can see a day when children will play without a care, safe and secure with people who love them. The world returned to “normal.” He is fully aware humanity created both the devastating virus and the apes who are quickly becoming the dominant species… a mistake he is willing to rectify with further death. Caesar and Colonel are drawn to each other. We can’t imagine how their meeting might end. A teaser image of Colonel holding a gun to Caesar’s head provides one possibility.
We were then shown a hefty seven-minute clip featuring four apes coming across a cabin by the water. A man carrying wood is caught off-guard and seems docile enough, saying he’s going to put the wood down slowly. Suddenly he draws a gun and is shot almost instantly as Caesar gets the drop on him from behind. It is clear Caesar didn’t trust him from the start. A sound inside the cabin alerts the group, who kick in the door, guns drawn. They enter a second room, where a figure lies, out of focus and in shadow, reaching out timidly. Caesar does not let down his guard, but lowers his weapon at the insistence of the orangutan Maurice. As Maurice approaches to learn more, Caesar is completely indifferent, telling the others to take what they can. Maurice offers a doll to the child, now in full view, and we learn the girl cannot speak. As the apes make a move to leave, Maurice signs the girl will die without anyone to take care of her. Caesar makes it clear he does not care.
In the next scene the apes are galloping on horseback along a beach. Maurice has the girl with her, hanging on like a child to her mother. Caesar is not happy with this addition to their group at all.
This footage was presented with flips back and forth between raw CGI for the apes, the actors in mo-cap gear, and the finished apes fully rendered, allowing us to appreciate the insane amount of work that goes into every shot, filmed at least four times with actors and without. The moments shown are highly emotional, leaving you with the sense this is not just going to be a movie about apes and humans waging war… trees exploding into great balls of fire at every turn. This is something different… something beautiful… and the wait to see more will be long and terrible.
Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Sara Canning, Judy Greer, Chad Rook, Terry Notary, Amiah Miller, Aleks Paunovic, and Gabriel Chavarria star alongside Andy Serkis, who returns as Caesar.
Matt Reeves, who directed 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, is helming from a script by Mark Bomback. Chernin Entertainment, Dylan Clark, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver are producing the film.
War for the Planet of the Apes will be released on July 14, 2017.
In War for the Planet of the Apes, the third chapter of the critically acclaimed blockbuster franchise, Caesar and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless Colonel. After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind.
As the journey finally brings them face to face, Caesar and the Colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both their species and the future of the planet.