IAR Screens Scenes From 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes''

Monday, 11 July 2011 09:05 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR Screens Scenes From 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes''

20th Century Fox set their monkeys loose in Pasadena last week Thursday night as filmmakers, faculty, students, and press gathered at CalTech to watch some exclusive scenes from Rise of the Planet of the Apes. On hand was director Rupert Wyatt (The Escapist), visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri (The Lord of the Rings series), Clare Richardson from the Diane Fossey Foundation, CalTech professor of philosophy Steve R. Quartz, and via Skype performance capture artist Andy Serkis (King Kong). The group was on hand to unveil several completed scenes from the film and discuss the process of digitally turning humans into primates on screen.

Director Rupert Wyatt began the evening discussing the origins of the project and his desire to use motion capture technology rather than real animals. “Very quickly we put to bed the idea of using real apes for all sort of reasons. I personally think it would be a bit of irony to be telling the story of exploited animals and use live apes to tell that story. I think it would have been a cruel twist,” said Wyatt. The director went onto say that the film would not have been possible with out the help of the visual effects artists at WETA and that the film is really a “Dr. Frankenstein story.” He also showed us real life footage of a monkey playing Pac-Man, which helped to inspire the film.

Following that, Wyatt began to introduce the first clip from the film. All together I think we saw about thirty minutes or so of the film spread between five or six different scenes. I want to be careful not to give too much away because the film looks really cool and I don’t want to spoil the excitement you will have when you see it. I can tell you that Andy Serkis makes one hell of a believable monkey. That is probably the most amazing aspect of the film. The motion capture work is amazing and Serkis’ performance lends real heart to the film and the character. He truly becomes Caesar and makes you sympathize with his plight, which is hard to do since we know his future actions. The apes all look so incredibly real and you never for once think that they are not real. I was most impressed with the attention to detail right down to each hair on the Apes bodies.

I was also impressed with the film’s serious tone and story structure. At the heart of the film we are talking about subjects like animal cruelty, testing on animals, relationships between father’s and sons, and Alzheimer’s. The film handles all of these issues exceptionally well while at the same time never forgetting that it IS a summer blockbuster called Rise of the Planet of the Apes. And the Apes certainly will rise before the film’s conclusion. The main character in the film really is Caesar and you sympathize with him so much that I think audiences will root for the Apes, where in the previous films you would root for the human characters.

In a sci-fi sort of way, Wyatt has made the idea of Apes becoming super-intelligent and taking over the world very plausible. The film is much different in tone than the original Charlton Heston series but you can see how this one could fit into that series. It really tells the story of what happened on Earth between the time Heston’s spaceship left in 1972 and when he arrived in 3978, to find a future where primates are the dominate species. The film does end up acting as an origin story to the original movies and has lots of hidden Easter eggs for fans of the series. Pay special attention to Caesar’s mothers name: Bright Eyes and the launching of a spacecraft called Icarus.

After the screening, Wyatt talked about his movies connections to its predecessors. “Well it’s an origin story in every sense of the word. It’s a re-boot I guess you could call it. We are working are way towards the original ’68 film, so there are aspects of that film, including the Icarus that we are including in this film. But our focus is on 2011 and not 1968 where Charles Heston and his crew from the first film started off and traveled forward in time and our film starts off in a contemporary setting. As and when we do get to the story of the ’68 films, and I hope we make future films then we will be looking back at this film as something that kicked started it. “

Actor Andy Serkis has certainly made a name for himself as the go-to-guy for motion capture acting since he practically invented the craft on The Lord of the Rings series playing Gollum. Serkis had this to say about how far the technology has come since then. “When we first started working on Gollum, it was a sort of freakish activity that people didn’t really understand. I would actually shoot the scenes on set, and my performances were shot on 35mm,” he explained. We’d always shoot a blank plate, so I’d play the scene with the other actors and then I would go back months later by myself in a motion capture studio and work in isolation with the plates we had shot.”

Finally, the actor went on to talk about how comfortable he has become performing with the technology. “A motion capture costume is actually a very liberating costume. The alternative is to wear a suit with fur and have layers of prosthetics on your face, like the actors did in the original Apes movies. For me, I find that much more restrictive and performance capture allows you to just play intention without being encumbered in any way.”

Rise of the Planet of the Apes opens in theaters on August 5th. 

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