Last week Nerdist attended an early look at some of the footage from the upcoming Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and on hand to present the footage was none other than Caesar himself, Mr. Andy Serkis, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite people. Serkis was charming, funny and informative, providing context for the clips we were about to see. I’ve been excited for Dawn for a while now, and, probably like most, consider Rise of the Planet of the Apes to be one of the biggest surprises to come out of the summer movie season in 2011. Before I go into specifics, my overall impression of the footage was, “WOW, this looks fantastic!,” both in terms of technology and story. I think it’s safe to say that fans of both the original series and the more recent Rise will not be disappointed with the continuation of the franchise.
WHERE WE ARE
As Serkis set up the film, we find ourselves ten years after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. As far as Caesar and his group know, humans have become extinct. The apes are living in a peaceful and functioning community. Caesar is their leader and he now has a son. Things go awry when a pocket of survivors (Keri Russell, Jason Clarke) come across a few apes in the woods.
WHAT WE SAW
The first clip shown was not an actual scene from the film but a side-by-side comparison of the raw footage of the actors playing the apes in their mo-cap gear and the rendered footage of the finished product. I can’t explain how cool it was to see. It would appear that the technology has grown leaps and bounds from the film that was released just three years ago. Every twitch, every human movement, was captured perfectly through the mo-cap technology. The other thing of note that Serkis pointed out was that very little of the film was shot on stages and green screens. The production took the actors playing the apes on location, which I think adds to how believable everything appeared. Other actors of high caliber were cast as the other main ape characters, and Serkis, while the master, appears to be in very good company.
The next big question was, of course, how much would the apes talk? In Rise, Caesar says his first handful of words before the conclusion of the films. Now that it’s ten years later in the timeline, how much would the animals speak? One scene demonstrated that the apes were using different forms of language to communicate. Some of them signed, some of them made sounds that Caesar recognized as language, and Caesar spoke in fragments in English. This was a decision discussed by director Matt Reeves and Serkis this weekend at WonderCon: They said that since the apes had only been on their current evolution for ten years, it wouldn’t make much sense to have them speaking fluent English yet.
Finally, the humans: Gary Oldman has joined the cast of Dawn alongside Keri Russell and Jason Clarke. When Serkis presented the footage to us, he mentioned that Oldman’s character wasn’t necessarily “a bad guy” and that the themes of tribalism and family come into play in a big way in this film. While we didn’t see Oldman being as dangerous as he is portrayed in the trailer, what we did see were the humans shown as desperate, scared and, at times, aggressive. However, based on the footage we saw, the apes could be described in the same way…
When I left the presentation, I was so excited to watch the completed movie. This is something that was obviously treated with great care by all of the parties involved. The apes are being portrayed as complex and intelligent and the humans are in an impossible situation. Like any good genre film, Dawn promises to be a story about a lot more than just apes riding horses and wearing war paint. But that’s still pretty freaking sweet, too.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes opens in theaters July 11, 2014. For more from Serkis discussing his role as Caesar and all kinds of great things from WonderCon this weekend, see the Nerdist News video exclusives.