Following the emotionally arresting story of “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” the latest movie “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” takes place 10 years after a viral apocalypse known as the Simian Flu hit the humans whose numbers have been severely depleted. The Apes, on the other hand, have done quite well amidst the pandemic with Caesar at their helm. Caesar, the prime intelligent ape with human-like qualities, who can strategize, organize and ultimately lead a revolution, borne and developed by genetic engineering has now led his kind to freedom and has built a new home where humans have difficulty thriving.
Dawn’s director Matt Reeves, who created a vivid and unexpected sense of realism in his 2008 thriller “Cloverfield,” says, “My hope is that audiences – even knowing about the visual effects – will say, ‘Wait a minute. There weren’t real live apes in the movie at all?’ “That to me is an exciting idea because it creates emotional reality. If you believe these apes are real and they are emoting, then your involvement just becomes deeper and deeper. I think that’s one of the miracles of what Weta has achieved.”
More than 85 percent of “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” was shot in the forests of Vancouver and outside New Orleans. Serkis calls this a “huge technical leap that enables there to be no disconnect with the other actors.” Shooting a film of this scope and scale in native 3D, coupled with the complex performance capture work amidst stunning yet challenging exterior locations was exponentially more difficult than what had been achieved on Rise of the Planet of the Apes. That latter featured mostly interior sets, but “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” depicts a community of 2,000 apes, living in wild surroundings, in humid, rainforest environments.
To capture the performances, Weta Digital had 35 people on each unit, an array of 50 or so mo-cap cameras and eight witness capture cameras that were constantly rolling on anything that involved an ape character. Joe Letteri, senior visual effects supervisor, notes that this groundbreaking technology was able to record the performance capture on location with all the other actors having a more coherent performance. He further explains that “Everyone is in the moment together. And that’s really what we were trying to do with the new technology we developed.”
Production designer Chinlund adds, “Matt, from the beginning, has been very explicit about this being more than just a post-apocalyptic world. This is a story about the birth of a civilization. I think it’s sort of a restart for the planet Earth. It was exciting to try and imagine how that would happen and also watching this new society built its world. I feel like the apes are going through the same evolutionary path that we did and running into the same pitfalls and trying to figure out how to build their new world. It was a really fun opportunity to try to think like an ape and help create that society.”
A new civilization is about to inherit the Earth when “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” comes in more than 200 screens nationwide (2D and 3D format) on July 9 from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.