"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" doesn't open until July 11, but Moviefone was among a few select outlets invited to an exclusive sneak peak of the simian sequel on the Fox lot in Los Angeles. Introducing the footage was Andy Serkis, who stars as lead ape Caesar (via motion capture, of course), just as he did in 2011's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes."
We saw five clips, including side-by-sides showing the actors' motion capture and their finished characters; a confrontation in the woods between apes and a small band of human survivors; a council scene between the apes as they decide how to respond to the human threat; a tense stand-off after the situation has escalated; a few peaceful moments between the apes and humans; and the trailer shown at CineCon.
Here are a few things we learned about the film from Serkis. (Who, incidentally, turns 50 on April 20. Happy Birthday, Andy!)
1. It's set 10 years after "Rise of the Planet of the Apes."
The human race has been decimated by the Simian Flu, which they blame on apes, even though it was developed by humans in a lab. The apes have made a peaceful community in the woods while the humans now live in small bands, trying to survive against great odds. "They're having a horrific time. They're dying out," said Serkis. The humans are of two minds: Jason Clarke ("Zero Dark Thirty") wants a peaceful coexistence while Gary Oldman wants to wipe the apes out completely. (Good luck with that, Gary.)
2. Motion capture has gotten even better since "Rise."
"WETA has moved on extraordinarily since the last film," Serkis said, noting the improvements in rendering "the skin texturing, the hair texturing, the eyes." He called WETA, which also rendered his performance as Gollum in "The Hobbit" and "Lord of the Rings" films, "the world's leading experts in facial performance capture." Since not all of the footage we saw was finished, it became clear that even the horses, which seemed 100 percent real in the completed scenes, were actually CGI.
3. The apes are talking.
Serkis explained that the apes now communicate in four different ways: Ape vocalization such as grunting; sign language, which they are teaching to their young; a combination of gesture and sound; and a prototype spoken language. In the clips, we saw Caesar telling humans to "Go," and talking about the apes' building "home, family... future." Serkis said that having the apes begin to talk is "exciting and intense."
4. Caesar is a father.
As a new father, Caesar has more reason than ever to protect his tribe, but also a chance to bond with the sympathetic humans (like Keri Russell), who are charmed by the baby ape. There are a few moments of peaceful coexistence between the species, but lasting peace wouldn't make for much of a summer movie, would it?
5. Being anti-ape is never good.
The movie isn't called "Rise of The Humans," after all. Expect some big showdowns.
"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" hits theaters July 11, 2014.