Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Preview with Andy Serkis

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At 6:00pm on Wednesday 4th June 2014, the doors of the Soho Hotel swung open for various journalists, eagerly waiting to view exclusive footage from 20th Century Fox’s brand new movie, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

The ‘Planet of the Apes’ franchise is now on its eighth film, and for those of you who have not heard of it, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a sequel to the 2011 blockbuster Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which is a reboot of the original franchise. It chronicles the evolution of the apes and the downfall of the human race. 95% of the human race has been wiped out by a virus within the past few years. However one of the key themes within the film is family, as Andy Serkis stated in his Q&A, “We chart the progress of two sets of families.”

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We were slowly escorted into the auditorium, which had movie talk in the air, with many speaking to each other about their opinions on the latest blockbusters. Shortly after Andy Serkis entered the room, the chatter faded as he began to give a brief description about the movie, with several clips that were to follow.

The first clip followed a ‘before and after’ format, highlighting Weta Digital’s work. It showcased technological advancements when it comes to the art of CGI and motion capture. The scenes depict Caesar (Andy Serkis), and others making general movements. Serkis, a pioneer for motion capture, believes that motion capture technology is really picking up steam, whether it’s with Hollywood blockbusters such as The Lord of the Rings, or video games such as Beyond: Two Souls, it’s making its way into various performances, including the illustrious theatre, which led Serkis to believe “It has found a place.”

We then move onto the second clip which is a scene from the film. It chronicles two apes that have come back from hunting, and on their way back to the group they encounter a human, Carver (Kirk Acevedo). After awkward hostility between both parties, Carver shoots one of them and calls for the rest of his group, and they come forth. Caesar and the other apes follow, and then tell the humans to ‘go’, which they do somewhat fearfully.

Later clips are set in both the forest (the home of the apes), and the residence of the humans in a post-apocalyptic town. We see the apes contemplating on whether to attack the humans, or leave them be, in which they ultimately decide to show their presence in front of the humans in their city. They come equipped in numbers. Caesar claims that the apes do not want war, but they will fight if they must. They give the humans a warning to not come back. During this scene we see apes on horses, on top of buildings, and hanging off the derelict buildings in the city. Serkis said that there was a total of 15 actors who were doing the initial motion capture for the apes, so they had to go back and do others. They also enlisted the help of parkour gymnasts. The director Matt Reeves wanted the film to be based more on the motion capture rather than just animation. So there is a lot more physical activity, which derives from the motion capture as opposed to the film’s predecessor.

The last two clips shown take place after the apes allow the humans into the forest to fix a dam, which is located somewhere within the forest. Consequently they get trapped, and the apes help them. These two scenes highlight a potential bond, or harmony which can take place between the humans and apes , as we see them interacting gently with each other. We see a human teenager Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee) thank the orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval) by giving him a book, and reading it with him. Compared to the previous scenes that were shown, these clips showcased the different tones present in the film; where there is hostility and impasse, there is also respect and understanding.

dawn-of-the-planet-of-the-apesWhilst the CGI looks absolutely stunning, and the motion capture is fantastic, nothing can be taken away from those motion capture artists. Serkis said that one of the real challenges of filming was making it feel real, so there was a lot of rehearsal. Asked whether the eyes were human or CGI (because the emotion portrayed in them seemed so powerful and realistic) Serkis replied that the “’emotions are by the actors. Yes, everything is digital, but everything is authored by the actors on set.” Whilst some of the footage shown was unfinished, the film contains over 2000 shots that were motion captured, with roughly 700 left to be submitted.

The tone highlighted by these clips really puts forth empathy. As Serkis says, you feel empathy for “both sides.” Which is really key when creating a complex story, with complex characters. Much of the film was shot on location, as opposed to a controlled environment with the previous film, which added a realistic feel to it. From the clips that were shown, there is much to make you feel emotionally involved, which was what Reeves wanted to put across. Rather than being a film about complete and utter war, it is a film about family, prejudice and avoiding conflict.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is released Thursday July 17th 2014.

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