Yesterday, 20th Century Fox held a huge presentation showing off new footage from four of their 2017 releases, including War for the Planet of the Apes, the third movie in the new series, once again directed by Matt Reeves. Reeves was on hand to introduce new clips alongside Steve Zahn, who plays a new character in the movie. More on him below.
With the three clips that were shown and the premiere of the first trailer, we put together a list of the new things we’ve learned since the movie was brought to New York Comic-Con in October.
- The movie opens two years into the war between the humans and the apes, and the movie opens with a battle between the human and ape armies in the woods. The humans are looking for Caesar, and we got to watch this extended battle sequence where we learned a few new things on how each side was trying to get an advantage in the war. The humans have been utilizing apes to help them track the other apes and also as pack mules, of sorts. The apes meanwhile have armed themselves with primitive make-shift weapons, including bows and arrows, but they also have automatic rifles and tear gas to use against the humans. The outcome of this first battle leads to staggering losses on both sides.
- Caesar is still wracked with guilt about killing Koba in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which goes against his #1 rule that “Ape Shall Not Kill Ape.” He feels like he’s losing the empathy that he gained while being raised by humans as a young chimp, and he has to go on a physical and emotional journey to find it.
- Caesar is also heading into the snow-covered Sierras in search of The Colonel (Woody Harrelson’s character), who is responsible for all the earlier deaths in the ape camp. Caesar is joined by Rocket, Maurice and Luca, who still communicate via sign language, although Caesar’s English has clearly improved. In the second clip shown, the four of them come across a human camp and after Caesar kills the human soldier there (in defense), Maurice finds a young girl (the soldier’s daughter) sleeping and realizes that she doesn’t speak English but they can still communicate. Maurice tells Caesar that the girl will die if they leave her on her own, so Caesar allows Maurice to bring her with them. The second clip ends with the apes riding along a beach with the little girl on the back of Maurice’s horse.
The Colonel is a former special ops soldier, who has been taking desperate measures in the last battle with the apes, because he knows if the humans lose, then Earth will indeed become a “Planet of the Apes” as seen in the original 1968 movie. The second half of the new trailer is narrated by Harrelson and we start to see what he goes through to beat the apes. From the trailer, his presence seems to be similar to Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now, and Reeves said that while this is a war movie, he wanted to make sure to not lose sight of the drama between the different characters. (He also cited Bridge on the River Kwai as another comparison.)
- Steve Zahn portrays a new ape character known as “Bad Ape,” who like Caesar is able to speak and understand English. We meet his character in an extended sequence in which the smaller chimp is decked out in a heavy fur-lined snow coat, and he sneaks up on the apes’ horses while they’re away from them and the little girl isn’t paying attention. The other apes notice as the small figure leaps on the horse’s back and takes off. and they follow in pursuit, seeing him go into a large abandoned house. Maurice can’t fit through the entrance but the other three go in with their guns drawn and they find the small creature in a hidden alcove. When he removes the hood of his snowsuit, we can see that it’s a small chimp and he says “Bad Ape, Bad Ape,” possibly as introduction. It’s clear that he doesn’t understand the other apes’ sign language but he tells them the story of how he came from a zoo and that he learned English in a similar way that Caesar did. While he’s telling his story, the little girl keeps trying to play with his weapon. It’s pretty clear that Bad Ape will offer the otherwise serious movie some of its humor but also a great deal of its heart, according to Reeves.
They ended the Apes presentation with the first look at the new trailer (which is now online), this one a longer piece than the teaser that appeared in October which starts with Caesar and his journey partners on the horses riding across a beach from the second clip. Caesar narrates it with, “I did not start this war. I offered you peace. I showed you mercy.” We see some of the footage from the battle scene in the first clip, and then it shifts the point of view and narration to Harrelson and we get to see The Colonel both in the battlefield and off as he says basically what Reeves told us earlier about him not wanting the Earth to be lost to the apes.
Probably one of the most distinct things about War from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is that we’ll see a lot more locations than just the woods, and it’s going to be a much bigger movie with a journey that starts in the familiar woods and then goes across the snow-covered plains, and there will clearly be big battles in both locations. It’s still hard to determine whether War will be the last of the prequel movies leading into the 1968 Planet of the Apes or if they’ll still have room to introduce some of the characters that we’re more familiar with like Zaius, Dr. Cornelius, etc, something that the original sequels did end up doing.
War for the Planet of the Apes opens on July 14, 2017. Look for our interview with Steve Zahn very soon, and peruse our set visit coverage in the links below.