What We’re Looking Forward To In Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

Let’s be honest when Twentieth Century Fox announced they were planning a Planet of the Apes origins movie we were all a little sceptical. We all know the story and Tim Burton’s 2001 remake of Planet didn’t particularly whet anyone’s appetite for a return. But Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes turned out to be an original, engaging and exciting film that made half a billion dollars at the global box office and unsurprisingly Fox announced plans for a sequel. With Wyatt departing the project, Fox asked Cloverfield director Matt Reeves to shepherd the mo-cap heavy sequel to the screen.

Apes 9I was lucky enough to attend a special preview of footage from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in London, introduced by Andy Serkis who so vividly brought the films’ protagonist Caesar to life. The new film is set 10 years after the events of Rise with the apes establishing their own colony outside San Francisco and living pretty free and easy. For mankind it’s not been quite so good: the virus we saw at the end of the first film has killed billions and the remaining humans blame the apes, naming the disease simian flu (although of course we know it was created by Man). The humans are also dealing with a breakdown of their infrastructure including a loss of power – so much so that over the decade they’ve been free, the apes have watched the lights go out over San Francisco and they think Man has pretty much vanished. One of the clips Andy showed us was the first encounter between Man and ape for a long time.

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APESWhilst Serkis returns for the sequel, his human counterparts don’t so no James Franco or Freida Pinto. Instead this time around the cast features rising Aussie actor, Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Kodi Smit-McPhee and the always brilliant Gary Oldman who appears to be the villain of the piece. We saw a few scenes involving the new actors who all looked to be doing a fine job, but honestly this film is really going to be about Serkis and co the amazing work done by the ‘ape’ actors and WETA digital. From what I’ve seen, WETA have yet again pushed the boundaries past anything we’ve seen with mo-cap before.we were shown side-by-side comparisons of the actors’ performance and how the finished film looks and I find what they’re able to achieve quite incredible.

If you’ve seen the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer you’ll know in this film Caesar (and some of the other apes) are able to speak. That I found really strange. I think seeing little bits out of context probably didn’t help. Fox had brought in an ape expert as part for the Q&A panel and she told us that part of the film is the most far-fetched: apes don’t have long enough necks for them to be able to speak, their larynx is in the wrong place. But if they were to evolve then maybe one day it could happen….

One of the themes of the film which Serkis was really keen to stress is that it’s about families. The human kind and the chimp kind. In the 10 years since we last saw him, Apes 8Caesar has built his own family from the chimps he rescued in Dawn as well as their offspring. In fact Caesar is now ‘married’ (his wife Cornelia is played by Judy Greer) and has his own son/daughter (its sex wasn’t established in the clip we were shown). What we did see was some nice interaction between the baby chimp and the humans. There was also a nice scene between Smit-McPhee’s character and Maurice the Orangutan played by Karin Konoval.

Andy Serkis Motion Capture - Dawn of the Planet of the ApesOne of things that struck me most about the Q&A after we watched the footage was that Serkis talked about performance capture technology and how it’s become more predominant in filmmaking and what that means for actors. Obviously he’s at the vanguard of actors embracing the technology and has even started his own digital studio, the Imaginarium, based at Ealing Studios. He told us he sees motion capture as a way to completely transform himself as an actor and he feels it’s the same as using makeup or a costume to change the way the actor looks – only this time it completely changes the way the actor looks!

So all-in-all I like the look of where Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is headed and having been teased with about 15 minutes worth of footage I’m now really excited to see the full film. Bring on 17th July!

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes will be released in UK cinemas on 17 July 2014.