NYCC Recap: War for the Planet of the Apes looks intense

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a surprisingly good movie. It seemed like a reboot that didn’t need to exist but it was actually something very different from the many Planet of the Apes movies that came before it; a very simple tragedy about love, family, betrayal, and ultimately the start of what was going to become a full on war.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was the next step towards that war. The humans and the apes were divided further and the initial shot was fired that would turn an uneasy alliance into a bloody conflict that would end in the decimation of one species. It is a war no one wants and you see that from every side. Dawn also served a greater purpose to both advance the narrative towards the Planet of the Apes continuity while setting itself apart with more development for our protagonists, more world building, and a very intimate look at how such a necessary peace can be shattered.

From what we’ve seen, War for the Planet of the Apes will raise those stakes as high as they can possibly go:

The Teaser Trailer

This will likely drop soon, so keep your eyes open. It showcases how much things have changed. In the two years since the events of Dawn, both Humans and Apes have been driven to the edge. We open on a team of human assassins on a mission kill Caesar (Andy Serkis). They enter a cave and one by one are picked off by Caesar ending with a shot of Caesar leaping off a cliff towards a human suspended on a wire. It looked very cool.

The exposition comes in the form of a monologue from Woody Harrelson’s character simply known as “the Colonel.” Basically the Humans and Apes are leading towards a large confrontation and the humans are ready. We see their base. It is full of serious equipment (tanks, helicopters, guns) and an army. It isn’t a giant army but they look large enough to cause some real problems for the Apes. The Colonel is clearly not interested in Ape prisoners.

We get some footage of the new Caesar too. It is the same character, but the war has turned him from a leader trying to keep the peace into another Colonel with as much contempt for the humans as the Colonel has for the Apes. We get a look at some of the other Apes. Rocket is back. There are also an orangutan and a gorilla that are part of Caesar’s posse. Caesar also has a shotgun now. It drives the point even further that he is not playing around.

The end of the trailer is full action. Apes charging. Tanks and helicopters charging. And there are A LOT of tanks and helicopters. More than I’ve seen in a shot that close. It makes the conflict feel massive without using a giant overhead CGI shot. You see it from the ground. You feel there. It is also hectic. There isn’t a formation. It’s messy.

The final shot features a captured Caesar in the middle of the Colonel’s base. He is on his knees and the Colonel has a gun to his head. This seems like it should be the last scene but I really doubt it. The Colonel is ready to execute Caesar but he hesitates and Caesar stands up and pulls the gun closer to his head, taunting the Colonel. He has lost everything. It is a powerful shot to end on.

The Plot

Director Matt Reeves explained that War for the Planet of the Apes is not like most war movies. There will be a very large conflict in the third act but the plot revolves around a mission. After being driven to the breaking point by the cruelty of the humans, Caesar takes his closest friends on a “mythic journey” to kill the Colonel. It may be to end the war. It may just be for revenge. Either way, the team moves forward through the destroyed world in a desperate attempt to achieve their goal.

It looks like Caesar’s team will suffer some serious casualties and that’s a very special thing about this kind of sequel. Unlike bridging threequels like The Hobbit: War of Five Armies or Revenge of the Sith, War for the Planet of the Apes has an obvious conclusion but the specifics of that conclusion are very vague. The Apes will win the “War for the Planet” but which Apes will win is up for grabs. Every main character including Caesar could die and it seems like a lot of them will.

Serkis also explained that The Colonel and Caesar have a very interesting relationship. As the film begins, both hate one another. They are willing to do whatever it takes to win. And while that probably doesn’t change as the film progresses, they will understand how the other got to where they are. Like Koba from Dawn, the antagonists in these films are very layered. Audiences understand and can even empathize with their reasoning for doing terrible things. Harrelson’s Colonel seems like he will become that kind of antagonist.

Also Reeves seemed to confirm that Koba was still alive. When he mentioned Koba’s death, an audience member shouted “Koba’s alive” and Reeves responded “Who told you?” It is unclear if Koba will play a role in War but I would guess he does. It would be waste to tease his survival in the credits and not use him. Also Toby Kebbell was amazing in Dawn. That’s a just guess though.

The Footage

We also got a look at a scene from the middle of the film. Caesar and his team encounter a human on their journey to the Colonel. The human stops and pretends to surrender before going for a gun. Before he can use it, he is shot dead by Caesar. There is a lingering shot of Caesar standing with the shotgun post kill that was very powerful.

The team investigates the shack where the human lived and they find a human child, presumably the man’s daughter. Maurice pleads that the group keeps it, since it will surely die if left alone. Caesar refuses. Maurice insists. Cut to the team riding horses down the shore with the child on the horse with Maurice. The scene demonstrated that War will have the nedesary action movie parts but won’t forget about the powerful intimate “human” moments that make the Apes franchise unique.

The footage itself was also quite interesting because of how it was presented. The effects weren’t even close to done. Many of the shots of the apes featured the most basic aps models you can image. Some others featured fully rendered characters. Caesar with the shotgun is a good example, although Reeves swore it wasn’t close to finished being rendered. The most interesting shots featured no CGI whatsoever. It was nothing but the actors in their mo-cap suits. You saw how they walked, communicated, and you got a great look at the faces behind the apes. Serkis looked excellent as did Maurice played by Karin Konoval.

Other Things

  • Producer Dylan Clark impressed that Andy Serkis is an amazing actor that deserves an Oscar. The crowd agreed. He really does.
  • Matt Reeves also described one of the big advantages of Motion Capture; the ability to add anything at any stage in the movie. He explained the on more than one occasion, actors would Skype in performances that would be added motion captured and to the final cut of the movie.
  • It doesn’t seem like any of the non ape actors from the original film will return. New characters include Steve Zahn and Judy Greer but we haven’t seen them yet in any footage.
  • Andy Serkis really really deserves that Oscar.

Matthew Nando Kelly is an incredibly cool and handsome Senior Staff Writer for Pop-Break who was allowed to write his own bio. Besides weekly Flash recaps, he focuses on film, television, music, and video games. Matthew also has a podcast called Mad Bracket Status where he discusses pop culture related brackets with fellow Pop-Break writer DJ Chapman. He has an unshakable love for U2, cats, and the New Orleans Saints. His twitter handle is @NationofNando. Did we mention how handsome he was?

Matthew Nando Kelly is the cool and tough Managing Editor of Pop Break who was allowed to write his own bio. Besides weekly Flash recaps, he has a podcast called Mad Bracket Status where he makes pop culture brackets with fellow writer DJ Chapman.