The first trailer for War for the Planet of the Apes featured a fascinating assortment of new images, locations and characters. The film’s story begins two years after 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes — where Caesar and his fellow apes conquered the nearby human habitat. And judging by War‘s self-evident title, it looks as though the film will only continue to show the steadily declining relationship between apes and humans. But now, the conflict has intensified and the entire fate of the planet is at stake.
While the trailer is nothing short of stunning, there are still unanswered questions that need explaining. The footage, of course, heavily focused on the central conflict between Caesar and The Colonel (Woody Harrelson), who leads a prized human sanctuary called The Lodge. However, the way in which Caesar and the humans come together remains a mystery. But luckily, director Matt Reeves has some explanations for us.
In a recent interview with Empire, Reeves discussed many of the new images seen in the trailer. He gave just enough details away to satisfy fans, but not so much that it would spoil the fun when the film hits next summer. He first elaborated on the opening shot of the trailer, which showed apes riding horses along a beach shoreline.
“That’s on Vancouver Island, and we chose it because the day I went scouting it was in rain season, and it was so moody and cool. The day we got there to shoot, the weather was entirely different. It was really sunny! For a second I was really distraught, but it actually looked even more beautiful that day. We lucked out. The first image I tweeted came from these first three days of shooting. It evokes the end of the ’68 original obviously, so I thought there was a nice circularity to that. Obviously the context is very different.”
Even if the beach setting is nothing except a nice callback to the 1968 film, it’s still a great way to get fans and newcomers alike excited. The location was not featured whatsoever in Dawn, so who knows exactly what part it will play in War. What we do know, however, is that the majestic forest where the apes reside looks like it will become a major battle ground. The footage showed a group of commandos heading deep into the area, and then getting tangled up in an intense firefight.
“We start in the Muir Woods, and Caesar has become sort of a legend. What is left of the US Army has come down in answer to the distress call that you see at the end of Dawn. The fighting started in the city but the apes have retreated into the woods, and Caesar has been rumoured to be marshalling his troops from a hidden command base somewhere deep in the woods – not an easy place to shoot but it looks beautiful. They’ve been searching for him and searching for him, and here, mounting that hill, they’re actually all on this desperate search for that command base. They’re not even sure he exists because he has this sort of legendary status.”
Something that Dawn did incredibly well was the depiction of apes using human weapons. Instead of using the stereotypical weapons like spears and clubs, apes often used machines after humans had dropped them. This type of development really makes the battles between the two species that much more intense because both sides have equal amounts of strength. Throwing in the fact that War‘s trailer also featured apes using bows and arrows only adds to the action’s unpredictable outcome.
“The apes don’t have access to an armoury, so all the weapons they have are either scavenged or ones that they’ve made. One of the reasons they retreated to the woods was the advantage of being able to fight in the trees and live in that space, giving them an advantage over the humans. So they’re fighting with their makeshift weapons and scavenged weapons, but their incredible intelligence and strength gives them parity with the humans. So we have these different fighting techniques: humans with guns vs. apes with some guns but also spears and arrows and other things they’ve created. It’s a bit of ape warfare that sort of evokes something like Gladiator.”
As with any war, there are always going to be prisoners — and War is definitely utilizing that strategy to its advantage. The footage showed the attacking commandos being captured by the apes, although there was no resolution of whether they lived or died. It wouldn’t be that surprising if that battle becomes a major turning point for The Colonel, and Caesar.
“At the beginning you see this battle sequence, and we actually start from the human point of view. We only switch to Caesar’s afterwards. The battle begins and Caesar isn’t there to begin with, but he arrives in the aftermath and it’s almost like Paths Of Glory: he walks through and sees the injured and finds who they’ve captured. It’s a cool moment, and it’s very much about the fact that Caesar didn’t start this war. He’s been trying to find a way for there to be peace.”
The best part about this trailer is not necessarily what it’s revealing, but rather how smart the film is shaping up to be. Reeves managed to make Dawn be both an intelligent and entertaining blockbuster, and he seems to be following suit with War. The film looks like it will balance the franchise’s well-known social commentary with fantastic action and characters.
War looks like it could easily become of the best entries in the franchise. Dawn set a high bar with its CGI motion-capture, provocative story, and fantastic performances — giving the sequel a high bar to match. And while we may not know all the details for War for the Planet of the Apes just yet, Reeves’ remarks should be enough to keep fans content for the time being.