Matt Reeves Drops 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' Knowledge

Wednesday, 17 July 2013 08:49 Written by  Jordan DeSaulnier
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Matt Reeves Drops 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' Knowledge

Director Matt Reeves is exceedingly busy trying to get Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ready for its July 18, 2014 release date.

Nonetheless, he's taking the time to update us on the status of his sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes, giving a sense of what to expect at Comic-Con, where his prequel-sequel takes place, Caesar's emotional journey, and advances in Weta's motion-capture approach.

Though Rise of the Planet of the Apes helmer Rupert Wyatt was publicly eager to return for another round, he departed the project over concerns about meeting the release date, previously set for Memorial Day weekend next year.  20th Century Fox promptly brought aboard Reeves, the director behind Cloverfield and Let Me In.

Working with Fox favorite Mark Bomback, Reeves did some rewriting on the screenplay, which previously saw work from Rise duo Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa, along with Contagion's Scott Z. Burns

In an interview with Thompson on Hollywood, Reeves clarifies the cause and effect between drafts.  He also gives a sense of what fans in Hall H can expect from during the Fox presentation at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday.  Fox has kept its Comic-Con plans surprisingly secret, but Reeves clarified a bit, saying,

Because we're shooting, we're not showing very much. We are not going to be coming with tons of footage. The cast will be there, we'll try to give a taste of limited little bits. But not ape shots, we're not going to do that, you're limited in what you can show. That's another story that takes months and months. The movie doesn't even come out Memorial Day, we switched with "X-Men" on July 18. Now we can do those shots. So much doesn't exist yet.

2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes concluded with super-smart ape Caesar and his hordes of fellow apes escaping San Francisco and setting up shop in the woods while a James Franco-made virus tore through the city across the bay.  The sequel picks up in these very same locations, he explained,

The ape civilization is in the woods, between Vancouver and New Orleans, the world after what happens with the simian virus flu. The two main locales are San Francisco and the Muir Woods where the ape civilization is born. We'll be doing a little shooting in San Francisco as well. A lot of the Louisiana shooting was to build huge wood sets outside in the woods to add realism, enormous exterior streets. We're shooting in the rain, in the wind, all on location out in the open in the elements.

Asked how his take on the story if different from the early drafts by Rise duo Silver and Jaffa, Reeves replied,

When I got involved the story initially took place further down the line, the apes had evolved fast. What excited me was the idea of going back to finding a way to get on the path, I did not want to jump so far ahead. I restarted the first movie that put you in the heart of the apes, knowing that in the canon, the '68 movie I saw as a kid, you know what that world is about. That was the beginning. So this leads to the original film. How does that work? That is where it's going. I did not want to go too far and miss how it developed.

Reeves explained that he wanted to extend the potent emotional connection between the audience and Caesar, once again played by Andy Serkis.  He said,

Watching "Rise" it was miraculous how connected we are emotionally to him. I've never seen it at that level. We're wrapped up in his character. I wanted to carry that forward. When I rewatched "Rise" in the interim, I had a son, and something in watching Caesar come into being in that movie reminded me of my son. When you watch you identify with Caesar. I couldn't believe I had that level of emotional involvement with a CG character. He is torn away from his family and grows up with another family, he's taken away from them and imprisoned in the ape habitat. There's no dialogue except sign language and it's fascinating and emotionally involving. It felt like an uncanny connection to Andy's perspective. I wanted to make sure that the emotional life of Caesar was the way the story carried forward. You have to make Caesar's movie, you have to think about what matters to him the most.

In the original Planet of the Apes, simian civilization is well-established, with the ape characters speaking English fluently, even formally.  Rise of the Planet of the Apes finds Caesar slowly but surely putting together a monosyllabic vocabulary, dropping his first full sentence at the film's conclusion.  Reeves addressed that his apes will have to speak, saying,

Caesar talks at the end of the movie, he has some level of speech. I wanted to make sure we're continuing to go along the path of evolution without missing it, it was so delicious to watch in the first movie. It's not like now they are talking in verse. Hopefully the movie is emotional and thrilling as you watch the apes come into being.

The prequel took motion-capture to the next level, with Weta Digital and Serkis creating a character whose emotional potency easily surpassed that of the live-action characters.  On the follow, Reeves said that the reliance on mo-cap is even greater, with key-frame animation being used less frequently:

In the last movie there were a lot of things the apes couldn't do as performers, physically, so they animated them. It's amazing but some of that stuff isn't totally believable. You accept it. One of the things in the pursuit to make this as realistic as possible in addition to going on location in the light for a higher level of realism, is to see the movement of the ape stunt performers, not animated. The stunt performers trained themselves to move like apes. What they are performing is all real and when you see it translated it will not look animated.

With Serkis once again bringing the simian revolutionary to life, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes finds the great Terry Notary also returning as various apes.  Judy Greer and Toby Kebbell are also providing motion-capture performances.  Human characters, meanwhile, are played by Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Gary Oldman, and Kodi Smit-McPhee.

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