Are you ready for a sweeping war epic à la Apocalypse Now, but with apes? Because that’s what we’re getting with War for the Planet of the Apes.
In a special sneak-peek event for New York Comic-Con, star Andy Serkis, director Matt Reeves, and producer Dylan Clarke revealed the first teaser trailer and a behind-the-scenes featurette for the third chapter of the Planet of the Apes prequels to a theater full of fans. Not only that, but the trio unveiled a seven-minute, unfinished scene.
War for the Planet of the Apes doesn’t hit theaters until July 14, 2017, but here’s everything we know so far.
1. The Scene
War hasn’t just begun, it’s been raging. The film picks up two years after the events of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in the middle of intense warfare between Caesar’s tribe and human military forces led by the brutally sadistic Colonel (played by Woody Harrelson).
The unfinished clip showed Serkis and his fellow ape actors going through the sequence in their motion-capture suits, while other snippets showed half-finished special effects. But we see Caesar leading a scout team of apes on horseback as they dismount at an oyster shack near the water.
Three apes stumble upon a man gathering firewood. Soon their silent standoff turns deadly when the man tries to shoot them, but he instead loses his own life when Caesar fires his rifle in a “badass Clint Eastwood” moment, as Reeves puts it.
The apes continue their investigation of the oyster shack only to find the man’s mute daughter. Caesar continues stripping the place for supplies and declares they can’t bring the orphan with them, but the female orangutan Maurice, having made a connection with the girl, says she cannot leave without her. Cut to the beach where the apes are riding along the shore, and the human child is clutching onto Maurice’s back.
2. This Is a Much Darker Caesar
Caesar is broken. He’s harsher, colder and completely tormented by the memory of Koba’s death in Dawn. “Caesar comes to understand how Koba felt because he’s pushed by the demands of war,” Reeves says, but more so than that, he’s stuck in a battle he never wanted in the first place.
The titular war has forced the apes to retreat to the woods, and the tribe has suffered some devastating losses that propel Caesar down this wrathful path. He reaches a point where he’s so thirsty for revenge that he makes the decision to assassinate the Colonel, but his family goes with him to ensure his safe return.
3. Biggest Movie So Far
Reeves teased the film’s “huge scale,” saying it’s “so much bigger than any other film because it is a big war film” — at one point he even called it “a biblical epic.” He and his team watched a ton of films in preparation, including Apocalypse Now, Platoon, The Bridge on the River Kwai and Ben-Hur. For the first time ever, Reeves said, they shot motion-capture sequences in the snow and other harsh conditions to get the right feel.
4. The Villain
There’s obviously a hatred between Caesar and the Colonel, but Clarke said they develop a “shared appreciation” for each other. The film is “exclusively told through Caesar’s point of view,” Reeves said, but we’re able to understand why this antagonist is so brutal. “He’s extreme, but the world is extreme,” the director said, emphasizing that this war is a “last stand for humanity.”
“How brutal would you need to be so that maybe at some point [the world] could be less brutal?” The answer will be a “huge struggle” between Caesar and the Colonel that takes up about two-thirds of the movie.
5. Pushing the Visual Effects
Serkis continues to push the boundaries of special effects with his motion-capture performances, but Reeves said he wanted to push things even further with Weta’s movie magic. Remembering back to watching Rise of the Planet of the Apes, he said Serkis’ scenes were more impactful without the special effects — when it was just Serkis in his suit. So he instructed Weta to try to bring as much of Serkis and the actors through to the VFX-powered apes.
6. Caesar Will Talk More
The past two films have shown the birth of language in the ape community, but Serkis said they wanted Caesar to be able to speak fluidly. Many of the apes will still use sign language and vocal cues to communicate, but there are less speech restrictions. Even now, though, they’re tweaking things in the editing stage, which can be complicated since every scene had to be shot four times to accommodate the motion-capture technology.
7. The Trailer
Capping off the event was the reveal of the first teaser trailer. The footage opens with a human SWAT team to assassinate Caesar, but the ape lord is already upon them in the dark as gunfire illuminates his ferocity. He hears the Colonel’s voice on the other end of the walkie-talkie asking if they killed him, at which point he sees the face-painted Colonel and leaps after him through a waterfall.
The trailer then cuts between various images: of a shirtless Colonel shaving in a wintry base camp, of an ape keeping watch over his human prisoners, of a battle in the woods, and of the Colonel pointing a gun directly at Caesar’s forehead. “All of human history has led to this moment,” the villain says before ominously warning, “If we lose, it will be a planet of the apes.”
War for the Planet of the Apes hits theaters on July 14, 2017