Well, the most human of the apes’ moment. It’s honestly amazing what Andy Serkis and Karin Konoval can do in motion capture.
At a special New York Comic Con event, writer-director Matt Reeves, producer Dylan Clark, and star Andy Serkis showed about seven minutes of unfinished footage for the third movie in the Planet of the Apes prequel/reboot series. And while there was a lot of talk about the epic nature of the war film, the seven minutes we saw was all about the empathy of the apes.
Here are some details about the plot revealed at the event: War for the Planet of the Apes takes place two years after the end of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The humans and apes have been at war in that time, with heavy, heavy casualties on both sides. On the human side, the leader is a brutal military man called the Colonel (Woody Harrelson). Humanity is making its last stand, but the apes are being lead by Caesar (Serkis), who is fighting a war he never wanted. Caesar, however, is still wracked with guilt over killing Koba in the last movie.
And, at the same time, the losses suffered by the apes in the war are driving Caesar closer to understanding Koba’s hatred of humans. To end the war, Caesar embarks on a “quest” of revenge against the Colonel. He ends up traveling to confront the Colonel, along with Maurice (Karin Konovel), Rocket (Terry Notary), and Luca (Scott Lang).
The footage we saw takes place on this journey, where the apes think they have found where the humans are hiding. It’s an oyster shack that’s very run down, and the only human they encounter is an older man carrying a stack of wood. He says he’s just going to put it down, but he reaches for something. And is shot dead by Caesar. There’s a grim determination in his face, evident even in the unfinished motion capture that we saw.
They apes break down the door to the shack, and Caesar orders them to look around and take what they can. They also find a young girl curled up in a bed, frozen in fear. Caesar trains a gun on her, but Maurice pushes the barrel away. Caesar and the rest leave, but Maurice picks a doll off the floor and holds it out to the girl. She takes it hesitantly, and Maurice strokes the doll with a single finger, in a comforting motion.
Maurice the orangutan ooks softly at the girl, who tries to talk back, but struggles to make any sort of noise. The group goes back outside, where the girl stands over the dead man, who is clearly her father or caregiver of some kind. She’s a silent, broken waif. Maurice tells Caesar—through the combination of sign language and sounds—that he thinks there’s something wrong with the girl, “I don’t think she can talk.”
Caesar says that they can’t take her. “I understand,” Maurice’s subtitles read, “but I cannot leave her.” The scene ends with the apes moving out on horses, with the girl clinging to Maurice’s back.
It’s an amazing scene for how few words are spoken. Only Ceasar speaks, and only rarely. Everything else is done with body language and expressive eyes. Where Serkis is hardened as Caesar, Konovel is full of empathy and gentleness as Maurice. She does so much with so little, and is absolutely the conscience of the group. We were told that this was the start of a very “surprising posse” for Caesar.
Reeves said they picked the scene, because even though there’s more action and more humor in this movie than the other two, it’s all a backdrop for the “intimacy” of scenes like this. However, “two-thirds” of the movie is just the struggle between the Colonel and Ceasar, with a lot of the mystery being in discovering how the Colonel got to be as brutal as he is.
We got a glimpse of that confrontation in the teaser trailer that followed, which starts with Caesar taking out men from the human army in a darkened cave. He launches himself at the Colonel, who is hanging from a rope and with black stripes painted on his face. We also see a later scene, with Caesar on his knees in front of the Colonel, who puts a gun to his head. The whole teaser, which shows humans marching and drilling in formation at a base in the mountains and cuts fights between the apes and men, has a voiceover from Harrelson, who explains that humanity is on its last stand and if they lose, it will be a “planet of the apes.”
War for the Planet of the Apes comes out July 14, 2017.