If the most recent trailer is any indication, War for the Planet of the Apes is going to be the most intense Planet of the Apes movies yet. But it won’t all be armed apes on horseback and arrows flying back and forth, as director Matt Reeves revealed at last week’s 2017 Fox Showcase–there’ll be plenty of emotional drama, too, and he brought with him some never-before-seen footage to prove exactly that.
“The movie is filled with action and spectacle, [but] in the forefront of any good war movie is the drama of interpersonal relationships,” Reeves noted, citing The Bridge on the River Kwai and Apocalypse Now as part of his inspiration for creating War. This time around, Caesar (Andy Serkis, who appeared in much of the unfinished footage) is no longer the optimistic, human-sympathetic leader he once was, and his journey through the Sierras to take down the Colonel (Woody Harrelson) will continue to push him to–and probably past–his breaking point.
There certainly was “action and spectacle” to be had, especially in the gripping jungle battle between apes and humans that will eventually open the film. However, the bulk of the footage screened that day focused on the quieter horrors of war; one scene, which was also screened along with the trailer at New York Comic Con this year, depicted Maurice taking in a young mute human girl reminiscent of Nova from the original 1968 Planet of the Apes film. Another introduced us to a new character played by Steve Zahn, Bad Ape, who encounters Caesar’s team after he mistakes them for humans and attempts to steal their supplies.
Bad Ape’s unlike anyone we’ve seen so in the new Planet of the Apes franchise; for one thing, he’s the first ape we’ve met to develop language skills away from Caesar’s influence, instead having learned his broken form of English (and his name, presumably because people kept yelling it at him) from his time living in a zoo. He’s also the first comic relief the franchise has ever had, but like all good clowns, his humor is steeped in tragedy; in one moment he’s a clumsy, childlike figure, and in the next he’s completely breaking your heart.
Steve Zahn attended the Fox showcase alongside Reeves, telling the crowd present that it was his first time ever seeing completed footage of his character. “It’s very strange, because it’s your essence. It’s not like, ‘Oh, there’s my smile!’ or ‘There’s that look I do,’ It really is you but it’s not you,” he told Nerdist at a press junket the next day. “It’s very hard to explain. The first time you see it, it’s really kind of moving.”
Zahn was also quick to give credit to the other Planet of the Apes actors who work regularly with motion capture. “It’s just acting. It’s harder acting! There’s no difference,” he said. “Those actors are great actors. It has nothing to do with [mo-cap]–you’re still doing the essence of a character. Serkis is an incredible actor, and to be able to do that, to be able to embody this ape and at the same time be this guy who’s not an ape, he’s just a guy who’s trying to survive.”
“It was really heavy and kind of deep but it was very cool. It felt like being a part of some performance art group, some German weird movement group,” he admitted.
Of course, the faces and bodies of Zahn, Serkis, and the other actors in War for the Planet of the Apes will be completely obscured by CGI the time the film comes to theaters. But rest assured, their essences will certainly be up on that screen, and they’re probably going to make you cry.
Are you emotionally prepared War for the Planet of the Apes? You’re not, trust us, but let us know what you think in the comments anyway!
Images: 20th Century Fox, Patrick Lewis – StarPix©2016