The rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise is defined by not just its stunning visual effects but the depth of both the human and primate characters. The first two installments chronicled the fall of the human race and the rise of the highly advanced apes led by Caesar (Andy Serkis), and the dystopian man vs. ape conflict will continue in the much-anticipated War for the Planet of the Apes. The sequel is set to reveal further growth for the apes – in terms of both intelligence and population.
The task of building Caesar and his continually growing, evolving ape civilization has only become more formidable for the crew behind the award-winning CGI and motion capture effects of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. the effects have humanized the movie’s more expressive ape characters to thrilling effect, but their work figures to only become more daunting in War for the Planet of the Apes. That’s mainly because there will simply be more apes – significantly more.
Visual effects producer Ryan Stafford recently spoke with Screen Rant in a visit to the set of War for the Planet of the Apes, a sequel that features a much larger population of apes than even the sizable civilization seen in Dawn. Stafford intimated that there will be so many more apes – the vast majority of the characters in the movie, in fact – that the visual effects crews will have more work to do than ever.
Stafford describes a production that’s nearly as dominated by apes as Earth itself could be in the movie:
“The sheer volume by which the apes are in the film is incredibly challenging. Rise was maybe 30% or so apes in the movie. Dawn was like 60 or 70%. This is like 95%. Just the sheer volume. Every day we show up on set, it is just apes, apes, apes, apes. It’s an incredibly time-consuming process. We have multiple passes that need to be done. We have tons of equipment and personnel that travel with the way to produce this movie, and now it’s happening every single day. … There is no, ‘Oh, we’re going to be on stage with Jason Clark and Keri Russell. I’ll be in the trailer getting caught up on emails or whatever.’ No, every single day it’s apes. It’s going to present huge challenges on the backend because the whole movie is going to be resting on post-production’s shoulders.”
Clearly, Caesar and his nation of apes is poised to take control of Earth in War for the Planet of the Apes. If Stafford’s comments from the set are any indication, visualizing and humanizing a massive population of apes, even compared to Dawn, sounds as onerous of a task as any given to the visual effects team for the series. Dawn took the rebooted series to thrilling new heights with its expanded team of motion-captured actors, and War only makes that group even bigger.
Despite the promise of an unprecedented army of apes populating the screen, it remains paramount that War for the Planet of the Apes does not lose sight of the complex humanity of the apes that made Dawn so gripping in the first place. The internal conflicts between Caesar and the nefarious Koba (Toby Kebbell), among others, were as compelling as any in the movie. With investments in the visual effects growing and the apes likely to be even more human-like in War for the Planet of the Apes, the need to add emotional depth to them will only be more important.