The Planet of the Apes franchise was successfully rebooted a couple of years ago with director Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The undisputed standout of the film was Andy Serkis’ brilliant portrayal of the ape Caesar, gorgeously brought to life by the people at Weta. Fox’s sequel to that film, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, is one of the big summer tentpoles of 2014, and the film debuted some footage at Comic-Con in Hall H earlier today. During the panel, director Matt Reeves (Let Me In) and cast members Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, and Serkis talked about focusing the story on Caesar, moving forward with a series in which the final outcome is already known, and much, much more.
Hit the jump to read my full recap of the Comic-Con panel for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
Moderator Geoff Boucher introduced director Matt Reeves and cast members Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, and Andy Serkis.
Replacing Rupert Wyatt as director:
Reeves said that as a kid he was obsessed with Star Wars, but way before that he was obsessed with Planet of the Apes. When he saw Rise of the Planet of the Apes, he felt like Rupert Wyatt’s vision made the audience completely connect with the apes through Andy Serkis’ performance and Weta’s effects
They wanted to do a Caesar-centric story that takes place in the world of the apes, working on a grander scale.
This is a story about how we get from Rise to the original Planet of the Apes.
Reeves was excited because we know where the story goes, but it’s now all about how we get there. He said the movie is really about character and psychology.
Returning to Caesar:
Serkis says one of the challenges was portraying Caesar as a leader who has evolved with responsibility. He wants to inject the ape society with some of the humanity that he grew up with.
All of the apes together are strong, and not only is Caesar 10 years older, he has a wife and infant baby and teenage son. He also oversees a Council of Apes. It’s about what the choices are with the reaction to the arrival of the humans.
We see Caesar and the other apes learning to communicate with not just words but also sign language and gestures.
It’s a rich and fertile ground for exploring the inner ape and reflecting a lot about humanity.
Keri Russell reuniting with Matt Reeves:
Russell said she’s here because of Matt Reeves, who was a writer on Felicity. “He’s really created a world of these two communities to survive, and each community is trying to protect its own family.”
The action in the film:
Clarke said he’s most excited to see some of the action scenes. He said that Cirque du Solei and parkour guys were hired to inhabit the apes onscreen to do the live stunts.
The fairly short reel of footage focused mostly on the humans, as we were treated to shots of the post-apocalyptic society while Gary Oldman’s character made a sort of rallying speech. The footage gave me a strong The Road vibe, as the human society has devolved into chaos. There’s a great deal of intensity brewing, and we saw some fleeting images of Oldman firing a gun, structures overrun with grass, and Clarke’s character hiding behind a wall. Oldman mentioned in his speech that the humans spent four years fighting the virus and another four years fighting each other, and it has clearly taken its toll on the society.
The final shot of the footage opened close on the eyes of a fully-rendered Caesar sporting a bit of white war paint on his face and chest, and it slowly pulled back to reveal Caesar flanked by a number of other apes, with Caesar holding a staff in his hand and signaling for the other apes to hold. His face is intense, and as he drops his hand to signal a “charge,” the footage cut to black and revealed the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes logo.
The panel wasn’t opened up to audience Q&A, but the footage that Reeves showed was really strong. Whereas Rise of the Planet of the Apes had a fairly light color palette, Dawn is much darker. Reeves seems to have done a great deal of world building for the Dawn universe, and I love the grounded portrayal of the new civilizations. I’m also interested to see “a story of two communities,” as it definitely sounds like we’ll be delving deeper into the psyche of Caesar and how his ape civilization progresses towards the inevitable outcome.