Fresh off of the surprising success of 2011’s Planet of the Apes re-boot/prequel Rise of the Planet of the Apes, 20th Century Fox, WETA Digital and motion-capture prophet Andy Serkis return to their newly realised world with a new installment. Serkis himself was in London to preview some early footage from Fox’s sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, offering up some much needed insight into both the narrative and technological developments the new film poses.
After premiering a host of mostly-finished clips from the film, showcasing some extended portions from the movie’s trailers and some all-new footage, Serkis was quick to push the real selling point of Dawn: the incredible performance-capture technology at work at the film’s core.
Like Rise before it, Dawn will again utilize Serkis’ talents in the grey and black unitard as the film’s lead ape (and character) Caesar, whilst also employing a larger number of other digital performers than ever before: a total of 15, portraying over 2000 different apes. All human actors portraying ape characters, “a massive step” Serkis insists, towards a more “ethically-sound” movie industry that doesn’t exploit animals.
Narratively speaking, Fox’s Apes sequel definitely looks to be taking things up a gear. With more performers comes more apes and certainly from the footage shown, the scale of the film is even more epic than that of Rise, with entire armies of humans and apes clashing in some incredible sequences. Serkis was quick to defend the carnage however, making it clear that Dawn is in no way a war movie: “If anything”, he muses, “it’s a peace movie!”
The film’s director Matt Reeves, newcomer but long-time lover of the Apes franchise, was, according to Serkis, completely set against making a “judgmental” film. Dawn, he insists, is about the two tribes attempting to “avoid conflict and prejudice”; there is no siding with one species over another, each have their own heroes and villains. Serkis makes it clear from this that a major element of what the studio and the creative team are attempting on these new Apes films is the “challenge of realism.”
Primatologist Professor Volker Sommer and evolutionary anthropologist Carole Jaime both seemed to very much support Serkis’ idea that the situations shown in Dawn are not as devoted to fantasy as one might first believe. Elements such as the leadership of Serkis’ main ape Caesar and even the very fact that many of the apes in the film have begun to talk are “entirely credible.” Professor Sommer even went so far as to call Dawn “a missionary film,” fighting for the personhood of apes.
Reality or not, one thing is certainly made clear: with the new performance-capture technology at the heart of the film promising to begin “a new age for actors,” Dawn of the Planet of the Apes looks to be an exciting and ground-breaking new blockbuster. Audiences will have to decide for themselves whether or not all the technological hurdles were worth jumping through when the film premieres this summer.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014), directed by Matt Reeves, will be released in UK cinemas on 17th July by 20th Century Fox, Certificate 12A (TBC). Watch the trailer below: