New York Comic Con fans were in for a treat Thursday night. Fox held a special event at the Regal theatre in Times Square to show off the first footage from next July’s “War for the Planet of the Apes.”
INSIDER was on hand, along with a lot of other press, to witness seven minutes of footage from the upcoming film along with a behind-the-scenes look at the sequel.
Director Matt Reeves, producer Dylan Clark, and actor and motion-capture genius Andy Serkis (“The Lord of the Rings”) were present to showcase the footage and for a Q&A fielded by Entertainment Weekly.
That wasn’t it, though. Near the end of the an hour-long panel, Fox debuted the world premiere of the film’s first trailer. We’re not talking about the 31-second teaser Fox released earlier Thursday for the film. We’re talking about a full teaser trailer for next July’s film. If you’re a fan of the first two films in the series, what we saw Thursday evening looked good.
Here’s what we learned about the sequel
Reeves said the sequel will take place two years after 2014’s “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” in the midst of a giant war raging between mankind and apes.
Caesar (Andy Serkis) is still haunted after killing fellow ape Koba, the antagonist of the last film. However, the apes are suffering heavy casualties and Caesar is devastated. He’s out for revenge, and Reeves said this leads Caesar to go on a quest to kill the colonel, played by Woody Harrelson.
“He’s carrying a phenomenal amount of guilt about killing Koba,” Serkis told the crowd. “His desire for revenge becomes dark and obsessive. Koba keeps coming into his mind.”
Reeves said Caesar and Harrelson’s character will have a struggle for about two-thirds of the film.
Unlike previous films that have been told from the human’s point of view or split between the humans and apes, this story will be told exclusively through Caesar’s point of view.
Reeves said in the filmmaking process the crew watched a bunch of other movies for inspiration, including “Ben-Hur,” “Apocalypse Now,” “The Ten Commandments,” “Platoon,” and “The Thin Red Line.”
The first batch of footage seen included a look at the film’s visual effects and motion capture. We were shown how the actor’s performances in mo-cap are translated into photorealistic ape models and saw some on-set footage.
Andy Serkis was seen walking around in a grey motion-capture suit wielding a gun and sometimes with stilts to make his arms mimic those of an ape.
There were shots seen of actors riding horses on both the beach and on a snowy terrain.
What happened in the seven minutes of footage from the film
Fans and press were treated to an unfinished first-look scene from the film featuring Caesar and a few of his fellow apes.
Director Matt Reeves seemed a bit nervous to show off the work in process, warning that the footage would look crude and cartoonish.
“This is like stripping down naked in front of you,” Reeves admitted. “Seven minutes of movie stripped down that’s being edited right now.”
“Keep in mind, what you’re seeing is raw,” he also said. “It’s Quicktime out of an Avid.”
What we saw was a fantastic peek at the filmmaking process. The scene included a mix of motion capture suits, some ape renderings, and finished apes.
Caesar and a few other apes run into a human at his home in the woods. The man is about to surrender, dropping a pile of firewood, but he’s mercilessly shot. We see that it’s Caesar who shoots and kills the man. That’s surprising. If you’ve been following the series, Caesar has been the closest ape to humans and has been sympathetic to them in the past. That’s changed. He’s now colder and hardened against mankind since the war.
The apes then raid the man’s house along with Maurice (Karin Konoval), the kind orangutan from “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” The group come across a young girl who appears to have a speech problem. When the group gets ready to head out, the girl follows them outside to see, presumably her father, shot dead. Maurice asks Caesar if she can travel with them. He says no. She tells him that she won’t leave her behind. We then see the group riding off along a beach on horseback, the little girl tucked behind the orangutan as Caesar gives her a wary look of disapproval.
What was especially incredible to watch was Serkis’ raw emotions and facial expressions behind the militant ape.
When the clip was finished it received a warm reception from the crowd. Reeves was asked what the experience of watching the unfinished footage with a crowd was like.
“That was awful,” Reeves said at first before deciding, “it was incredible.”
Reeves said that they had been wanting to show footage like that for some time to a crowd. He emphasised that it’s rare to see acting like that in that process. He then told the New York crowd that they originally wanted to show us a different scene, but they couldn’t because it included a huge spoiler. Bummer.
When discussing the scene, Reeves described Caesar as a “badass Clint Eastwood Caesar.” That’s a pretty accurate assessment.
The first trailer for “War for the Planet of the Apes”
At the end of the panel, we were treated to a trailer debut for next summer’s movie. We see some soldiers going after apes before they’re taken out. We see Caesar come on screen in what appears to be the ape home from the last film.
We hear a soldier being asked over a radio, “Did you get the target? Is he dead?” The audience presumes Caesar is the aformentioned target, so, nope, they failed.
We get a few shots of Woody Harrelson’s colonel and hear his voice say, “All of human history has led to this moment. If we lose, it will be a planet of apes.” The trailer culminates with Caesar kneeling at the colonel’s feet, a gun pointed to his head.
“War for the Planet of the Apes” will be in theatres next July. The first full trailer for the film hasn’t made its way online, and you shouldn’t expect it to leak. There were a lot of suits on hand making sure phones were tucked away and turned off. Also, the majority of the people in the room were press. When the trailer comes online (hopefully soon!), we’ll include it here.
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