'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' Director Matt Reeves on Caesar's Evolution

This summer has already brought us plenty of exciting new films from all genres, but that doesn't mean it's too early to look forward to next summer's release schedule - especially since it includes the highly-anticipated sci-fi sequel/prequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The cast includes Andy Serkis returning as the leader of the apes, Caesar, but also some new characters played by Gary Oldman, Enrique Merciano, Judy Greer, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Jason Clarke.

Matt Reeves (Let Me In) is directing the film and working together with Joe Letteri and the FX team at Weta Digital to bring the apes to life. Weta's work combining the pioneering motion-capture technology from Avatar with in-depth CGI builds of the ape characters made Rise of the Planet of the Apes a joy to watch, and as such the expectations for the sequel are high.

The Playlist interviewed Reeves at San Diego Comic-Con 2013, where the cast will be in attendance. Since Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is still shooting, Reeves explained that obviously they won't yet be able to show any actual shots of the apes, nor indeed much in the way of footage from the film, but nonetheless was able to reveal a little bit about what audiences can expect to see when the movie comes out.

One of the most-discussed questions is whether or not the apes will be able to talk in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which takes place ten years after the end of the last film. A significant portion of Rise of the Planet of the Apes' plot contains no dialogue whatsoever, aside from the occasional few lines of sign language, and the non-verbal communication of complex simian social politics was one of that films greatest achievements. Because of this, Reeves says that he doesn't want to jump straight into Dawn of the Planet of the Apes with all the apes casually holding lengthy conversations:

"I wanted to make sure we're continuing to go along the path of evolution without missing it, it was so delicious to watch in the first movie. It's not like now they are talking in verse. Hopefully the movie is emotional and thrilling as you watch the apes come into being."

Some might argue that ten years is more than enough time for the apes who have taken a healthy dose of ALZ-112 to have learned to speak fluently, but based on the previous film this probably isn't the case. At eight years old, Caesar was able to say only four words, and struggled to vocalize them. Whereas Caesar was raised in an environment where his human "family" spoke to him every day, the apes will presumably have spent their ten years of liberation living mostly outside of human civilization and therefore away from human language. Since they are accustomed to communicating through body language and ape calls, learning to use another species' dialect was probably not a major priority.

'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' set photo

Reeves adds that he was keen to include a sense of realism to the film, and as such shied away from interior set shoots in favor of on-location filming - a considerable challenge when using motion-capture cameras. Some recent set photos from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes gave an idea of what the virus-afflicted future will look like, and Reeves went into details about the main locations:

"The ape civilization is in the woods, between Vancouver and New Orleans, the world after what happens with the simian virus flu. The two main locales are San Francisco and the Muir Woods where the ape civilization is born. We'll be doing a little shooting in San Francisco as well. A lot of the Louisiana shooting was to build huge wood sets outside in the woods to add realism, enormous exterior streets. We're shooting in the rain, in the wind, all on location out in the open in the elements."

Whereas Rise of the Planet of the Apes was all about Caesar's liberation of his fellow primates, and was in many ways a story of revolution, the sequel will find the apes beginning to have the upper hand as human civilization crumbles around them. It will be interesting to see how Caesar decides to deal with the human survivors when he encounters them, considering that he mostly refrained from killing humans in the first film.

Andy Serkis motion capture performance in 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes'

The motion-capture performances and animation of the primates in Rise of the Planet of the Apes were one of the film's most praised aspects, but the few portions of the movie where the apes were fully animated were noticeably less convincing. According to Reeves, this was necessary since there were some ape movements that the performers simply weren't physically capable of at the time, but the director has put a lot of work into ensuring that as much of the ape action in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes as possible is taken from the live performances:

"What's great about the best mo-cap is the authentic emotional performance. I've worked with Kodi for years, he was going through this emotional scene, going through the beats talking through it, and at the end of rehearsal I looked at Andy. Throughout the scene, he's been crying in the rehearsal, tears in his eyes. He works inside out, that is the key to what he does, and to all the mo-cap...

"Terry Notary is a Cirque du Soleil actor who trains all the actors to move like apes... In the last movie there were a lot of things the apes couldn't do as performers, physically, so they animated them. It's amazing but some of that stuff isn't totally believable. You accept it. One of the things in the pursuit to make this as realistic as possible... is to see the movement of the ape stunt performers, not animated. The stunt performers trained themselves to move like apes. What they are performing is all real and when you see it translated it will not look animated."

Be sure to read the full interview for further insights into the making of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and tell us what you're hoping to see from Reeves' sequel in the comments.


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is out in theaters on July 18, 2014.

Source: The Playlist

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