NOTE: The following post contains SPOILERS for War for the Planet of the Apes.
Earlier today, at New York Comic-Con 2016, we reported on our interview with War for the Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves, producer Dylan Clark, and star Andy Serkis. In the interview, the filmmakers discussed how the Planet of the Apes movies could continue beyond Caesar's story, should the character ever have to pay the ultimate sacrifice for his people. Reeves suggested that a whole Apes "universe" was possible - and Serkis teased that he'd even be willing to return to the franchise as a different character.
Yet, the entire reason the team had assembled at New York Comic-Con wasn't to speculate about the future of the franchise, it was to meet fans and debut sneak peek footage of War for the Planet of the Apes (set to be released in July 2017). Prior to the panel, 20th Century Fox unveiled a teaser for the film, depicting Caesar's likeness in a flurry of wintery weather effects but fans who lined up for the Q&A were also treated to three pieces of preview footage.
The first was a behind-the-scenes featurette that mainly broke down shots from the trailer (described later in this post) with video of the actors and early CGI renderings - to explain how the Planet of the Apes movies get made. However, the other two previews had a bit more substance - as the filmmakers revealed a full (albeit unfinished) scene from the film as well as debuted the first full trailer. To whet fan appetites, we've written out descriptions of both the preview scene and the upcoming trailer. That said, both include spoilers for the film - and moviegoers who would rather see the trailer or experience the final story with their own eyes, should wait for its impending release.
War for the Planet of the Apes New York Comic-Con Footage Description
Prior to unveiling the first full teaser trailer for War for the Planet of the Apes, director Matt Reeves, producer Dylan Clark, and series star Andy Serkis presented an exclusive sneak peek at a pivotal first act scene from War for the Planet of the Apes - featuring a surprise twist with massive impact on the rest of the film. The footage was incomplete - since WETA is currently working away on the post-production process of turning Serkis and his co-stars into apes - but the story and emotion of the scene shine through.
The audience saw a scene that was pieced together from various sources, footage of the actors in mo-cap suits on set, early renderings of the apes in the same scene, as well as near-finalized CGI versions of the characters.
You can read our full description below:
In the scene, Caesar (Andy Serkis), joined by Maurice (Karin Konoval), Rocket (Terry Notary), and a new gorilla character are on horseback - until they come upon a small cabin in a clearing. As they dismount, they encounter a man carrying firewood. Rocket, Caesar, and the gorilla train their guns on the man (Maurice isn't armed) and the man cautiously moves to set down his firewood - but reaches back for his own weapon and his shot dead by Caesar on the spot (to the shock of the other apes). The apes then investigate the cabin for other threats and scavenge what they can for their journey - until Maurice finds a young girl (roughly ten years old) hiding in the back of the cabin. He hands the girl her doll and attempts to comfort the frightened kid - discovering that the girl is mute. As the apes prepare to leave, the girl comes out to find her father dead and Maurice requests they take her with them (suggesting she will not survive alone). Caesar disagrees but when Maurice refuses to leave without the girl, he concedes. The final shot of the scene shows the apes riding their horses along the coast, the girl with her arms wrapped around Maurice, and Caesar looking on them with brief annoyance before moving to the front of the group.
Fans shouldn't expect to see this footage until they enjoy the final film release on the big screen in July 2017. The purpose of presenting the scene was, above all else, to show the NYCC audience how performers and WETA create the magical effects featured in the Planet of the Apes series. The scene, and likely the reason Reeves wanted to highlight this scene in particular (unfinished as it was), made it clear how much the ape performers shine through in War for the Planet of the Apes. Even when the effects were incomplete or an actor was standing in a motion-capture suit where an ape was standing two seconds earlier, the change-ups rarely distracted from the drama or emotion of the scene - making it all the more exciting to see the finished version hit theaters.
War for the Planet of the Apes Teaser Trailer Description
The teaser opens with a squad of well-armed and highly-trained soldiers searching a dark cave. In the cave, ape architecture (log platforms, bridges, and other structures) is visible. A soldier's comm crackles when, out of the black, Caesar grabs him and tosses him to the ground - picking up his radio headset to listen-in. They're searching for him - they're on a mission to assassinate him. The footage then cuts to the film's antagonist "Colonel" (Woody Harrelson), decked out in black war paint, repelling out of the waterfall - with Caesar pursuing and leaping off a ledge after him.
The rest of the footage is a sizzle reel that, like most teaser trailers, presents the majority of its shots out of context - intended to set the stage for the state of the world and returning characters in War for the Planet of the Apes rather than outright spoil the story. The footage reveals apes, bowing in respect to Caesar, presenting their leader with human captives. We see shots of a fiery battle, and wintery mountain compound where the Colonel, along with his soldiers, mount their war against the apes. The Colonel narrates throughout, acknowledging the irony that humans created the apes, and nature has been punishing them ever since, while stating that his army is prepared for a final stand - to do all they can to prevent the world from becoming a "planet of apes." Finally, the teaser reveals Caesar on his knees before the Colonel - who cocks a handgun and presses the barrel into Caesar's forehead. Caesar, in turn, snarls and pushes his face against the gun.
At the panel, Reeves made it clear that the New York Comic-Con audience would be seeing the trailer first - but didn't elaborate on when the trailer would be unveiled for everyone else. The teaser, unlike the unfinished scene, featured near-finalized effects work (good enough for an official trailer release) - meaning that the teaser could, in theory, drop any day now. As a result, it's unlikely the studio will wait too long to let the trailer loose; though, just because it was shown at NYCC, doesn't mean that it'll go live right away either.
We’ll return with more coverage of War for the Planet of the Apes when the trailer is finally released to the public and, leading up to the film’s release, we’ll be posting interviews with the War for the Planet of the Apes cast and crew – as well as a full write-up from our time on the film’s set! Prepare for War!
War for the Planet of the Apes opens in U.S. theaters on July 14th, 2017.