This weekend, Twentieth Century Fox was out in force this weekend at New York Comic Con promoting next summer’s War For The Planet Of The Apes. On Friday evening there was a special, offsite premier of the first trailer for the film which also featured star Andy Serkis and director Matt Reeves screening some additional footage from the movie and talking about its production. The following day there was a panel celebrating Serkis’s pioneering work in motion capture performance, with of course an emphasis on his work in the rebooted Planet Of The Apes franchise. Later, the press met with Serkis and Reeves for some more talk about the upcoming film. Needless to say, a lot was said about the film and here are the key takeaways from those events –
1. The new film will take place two years after the conclusion of 2014’s Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes. You’ll recall that at the end of that film the peace that Caesar was attempting to create between apes and humans was threatened by the approach of an army coming down from the north. Well, as War begins, that army has arrived, under the leadership of Woody Harrelson, and fighting has been going on for two years now. Who has been winning? Well, we don’t know that yet, though simple story mechanics suggest that as the movie begins the conflict will either be escalating or just reaching a tipping point.
2. At what ever point in the conflict that the story starts, Reeves hints that it will be epic. And judging from the list of movies and co-screenwriter Mark Bomback have been looking to for inspirations, we have the potential for a rather complex film. Reeves and Bombeck are look at a wide crossing section of film genres including war films like The Bridge on the River Kwai, Apocalypse Now, The Thin Red Line, and Platoon, Westerns like Unforgiven and The Outlaw Josey Wales and Biblical epics like Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments.
3. Through his work in Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit films, Andy Serkis has very much shown that performance capture work cam be just as effective as any other type of acting. With the previous two Apes films, there has been much talk and speculation as to whether the Academy of Motion picture Arts and Sciences would recognize that fact by at least giving Serkis a nomination for an Academy Award in the acting category. To date it has not yet happened. But War director Matt Reeves thinks that this film could be the one that turns the tide, stating that Serkis “deserves an Academy Award” for his work in the new film.
For his part, Serkis finds the latest film to be “very reflective of the human condition” in terms of Caesars’ own character arc through the prequel films. “Caesar is an empathetic character, but really where we take him in this movie is where that bleeds away, where he loses that. It’s the most emotionally draining part of his arc that I’ve played.” Will the Academy agree?
4. We will see what may be the beginning of the process that lead to humans not being able to speak in the far future of the original Planet Of The Apes film. Back when Chuck Heston and crew landed on the a planet where it seemed that men evolved from apes, they were the oddities to the intelligent ape inhabitants because, unlike the feral humans running about in the wild, Heston and his character’s crew mates could talk.
In a short, unfinished scene, we see Caesar, along with his orangutan advisor Maurice, discover a young human girl who doesn’t appear to be able to speak. Caesar is reticent about bringing her along on whatever journey they are on, but Maurice is insistent. In itself, it is an interesting reveal of Caesar’s ongoing struggle with his feelings over humans in the movie. But it also hints at something we know is further down the Apes franchise timeline. Granted, the prequel movies have told a story that doesn’t particularly line up with some of the later films in the original Planet Of The Apes cycle. But it does seem to indicate that the filmmakers are hinting at the when that strain of muteness in humans starts.
Fittingly, Reeves and company were tight-lipped about the reasons why the little girl would not speak. But Reeves does say “Of course, we know it doesn’t become Planet Of The Humans And Apes, it becomes Planet Of The Apes. The question is, ‘How do we get there?'” This looks to be one part of that answer.