Just a couple of weeks ago, there was little to no discussion going on about Fox's Planet of the Apes prequel. Now the film - which recently gained a new title, Rise of the Planet of the Apes - has begun generating a good deal of positive buzz, thanks in no small part to yesterday's release of the Apes teaser trailer.
Director Rupert Wyatt spoke out recently about the sci-fi prequel, and offered some tidbits of information about its computer-generated primates, contemporary cautionary-tale storyline, and how Rise of the Planet of the Apes resembles (and differs) from previous franchise installments.
Wyatt sat down for an interview with First Showing about the Apes prequel and had the following to say about how it compares to its predecessors:
"The original ['Planet of the Apes'] was made in 1968, that's over 40 years ago. We're telling a story that has never been told before in many ways, which is a real-world contemporary narrative set in 2011 about how the apes started the revolution. Now I know there has been a different take on how that happens with the earlier films, but this is actually setting up perhaps a more scientific approach to why that happened."
The director also cited Conquest of the Planet of the Apes as being "closest" in design to Rise of the Planet of the Apes, likening his approach with the prequel to that of Christopher Nolan's with Batman Begins:
"... If you are able to offer something that has a fresh perspective and actually takes the subject matter seriously, if it takes the mythology seriously, then that's giving it proper respect it deserves. I think it means nothing to replicate."
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the first in the franchise to create super-intelligent primates via the use of CGI and motion-capture technology - as opposed to makeup and prosthetics. So why exactly did Wyatt and his technical crew on the film choose to go that route?
"It was a narrative issue, frankly. Our story is an origin story. It takes place in the modern day. For the most part in the film it deals with real apes – real orangutans, real gorillas, real chimpanzees. The other films in the franchise don't do that. They deal with humanoid apes, so therefore you can have a human play a chimpanzee in an ape suit. But that was just never the case. There was no way that we could ever physically achieve that because we're talking about chimpanzees as we know them."
The ape Caesar (as portrayed by mo-cap veteran Andy Serkis) leads the revolution against his human captors; as Wyatt describes it, the evolution of that character is one of the most intriguing parts of the new Apes movie:
"There were pivotal moments within our story where we had certain things happen to Caesar along the way as he's growing up that change him fundamentally. I always looked to the story of John Merrick and 'The Elephant Man' for this in that he's different from us and he has an innocence and an optimistic look upon the world. We deviate slightly from 'The Elephant Man' in that Caesar makes a transition to a darker personality, to a darker character, because he realizes that there is no way that he can rely upon human kindness and humanity itself to save him or to help him. He will always be the same as the rest of the other apes in this film, which is very much exploited. That's what brings about the revolution; that is the seed."
Wyatt is keeping mum about specific details concerning how things will go down in Rise of the Plant of the Apes, but he did mention the following - with respect to how he would describe the film in general:
"Is it an action movie? Is it not an action movie? Is it a drama? I mean, it's everything. In many ways it's a fairy tale. It's a Bible story. If you're talking about how many set pieces there are in this film, that doesn't really interest me. The story is the payoff. But what I will say is that by the time the revolution starts, we are talking about a huge catalyst and a huge action set piece."
Finally, if Wyatt and 20th Century Fox get their way, the Apes prequel will be the first of several new installments in the franchise. Here's what Wyatt says about how his film lays the foundation for at least one more sequel:
"['Rise of the Planet of the Apes'] is about leveling the playing field in terms of if a revolution were to start in our day and age with a species that was looking to take on humanity, I think we could all safely say that it wouldn't have a chance in hell. We are the alpha of our world. But if you were to take certain things away from us, whether it be numbers or technology or whatever you want to call it, of course there's that chance."
Rise of the Planet of the Apes hits theaters this summer on August 5th. How's it looking to you so far?
For more with Wyatt, be sure to check out his full interview with First Showing.