War for the Planet of the Apes

20th Century Fox kicked off their War for the Planet of the Apes marketing campaign with a bang at New York Comic-Con on Thursday, unveiling the very first footage for the film in front of an enthusiastic crowd of fans and journalists. Director Matt Reeves, producer Dylan Clark, and star Andy Serkis shared both a conventional teaser trailer and a very rough seven-minute sequence from the movie, as well as a behind-the-scenes reel focusing on the mo-cap process.

None of the footage is online at this point, but luckily for you, we were on hand and taking notes. Click through to read our War for the Planet of the Apes footage recap.

War for the Planet of the Apes Trailer Recap

The War for the Planet of the Apes trailer opens in a dark cave positioned behind a waterfall. Human voices are heard over walkie-talkies: “This is Alpha 23, do you copy,” that sort of thing. Soldiers are wandering around the cave, holding up their guns. At times, all you can see are the green lasers pointing out from them. Then a human voice reports, “Target confirmed,” and things get hectic. The green lasers go into disarray as the human soldiers are attacked. The cave lights up sporadically with gunfire, and we can see the apes have arrived.

As the fighting ends, Caesar picks up one of the walkie-talkies and hears a voice asking, “Did you get the target? Is he dead?” It’s clear they’re talking about Caesar, and Caesar looks freakin’ pissed. Caesar finds the human on the other end of that connection, and we see the Colonel (Woody Harrelson), his face spotted with black camo paint. When he sees Caesar coming, he rappells down the waterfall. After a second, Caesar jumps after him.

What follows is a sizzle reel showing both sides of the war. There are shots of the human army armed with tanks and ready for war, and shots of human soldiers kneeling in front of their ape captors. There’s a massive battle sequence set in the snow, with explosions going off around the tanks. The trailer ends with Caesar himself on his knees in front of the Colonel, who has a gun to his head. They’re surrounded by human soldiers, and it looks like the end of the line for Caesar, but he looks defiant.

All the while, we hear the Colonel’s speech as a voiceover. “All of human history has led to this moment,” he begins. “The irony is, we created them, and now nature is punishing us.” He goes on to say that “this is the last stand for humanity,” and warns that “if we lose, it will become a planet of apes.”

War for the Planet of the Apes Footage Recap

In addition to the more traditional War for the Planet of the Apes trailer, we were also treated to a seven-minute scene from the movie. The footage we saw was extremely rough — as the filmmakers explained, it was still in the process of being edited — but it offered a great look at the work Serkis has been doing with his fellow ape actors Karin Konoval (Maurice), Terry Notary (Rocket), and Michael Adamthwaite (Luca).

At this point in the movie, Caesar has become extremely distraught about the massive losses on the apes’ side, to the point where he’s decided he wants revenge. He leads Maurice, Rocket, and Luca on a mission to scope out a lead Luca has heard about where the human soldiers might be hiding. Instead, they find… well, you’ll find out for yourself in a moment.

The scene opens on a seashore dotted with ruined shacks. The apes arrive on horseback and dismount. The area looks empty. “No one here,” one of them signs. “Search the area.”

Then a human appears, holding a bundle of logs. Smoke comes out of the chimney of a small house behind him. He clearly lives here, and looks startled to see the apes. He simply stares at them for a while, and the apes stare back. The man moves to put down his logs and retrieve his guns, but he’s quickly gunned down, and we see Caesar emerge from a shack holding a machine gun. Caesar looks furious, and the other apes look at him with apparent concern. After a moment, the four of them gather around the body. “Is he alone?” one ape wonders.

We cut to the four apes bursting into one of the shacks, with Caesar out in front. They’re holding up their guns as they quietly and carefully search the house. It’s a mess inside: ruined furniture, broken windows, shattered jars, debris everywhere. The apes come down a hallway and enter a room, where they stop to look at something. There’s a blanket, and there’s a human under it. For a while Caesar just stands there, pointing his gun at the blanket, until Maurice reaches out and gently pushes down the barrel of the gun. Caesar doesn’t resist. “Look around. Take what you can,” he tells the apes, and he leads Luca and Rocket into another room.

Maurice, however, stays behind and starts to approach the human. It’s a child. The two characters hold eye contact for a while. Maurice picks up a rag doll and holds it out to the child. It’s a gesture of kindness. The child considers Maurice for a bit, and takes it. Then the kid opens her mouth, but all that comes out is random stuttering. Maurice holds up a finger and softly strokes the doll, trying to bond with the child.

Maurice then goes into the other room, where the other apes are still poking around. “I don’t think she can speak,” he says. “Let’s go,” Caesar says by way of reply.

The apes head out and get back on their horses, but before they leave the girl emerges from the shack. She walks over to the body of the man Caesar shot earlier, and stands there in silence. “She’ll die out here alone,” says Maurice. “We cannot take her,” Caesar warns. “I understand but I cannot leave her,” Maurice replies.

We then see the apes riding their horses down a sandy beach. The girl is sitting behind Maurice, clinging tightly to his back. Caesar looks at them and seems conflicted.

War for the Planet of the Apes Footage Reaction

The War for the Planet of the Apes teaser trailer promised the kind of big action beats you’d expect from a war movie. It established Harrelson’s Colonel as an antagonist to be reckoned with, and revealed that Caesar has become hardened since we saw him last. He looks angry and kind of frightening, in a way we haven’t seen before. Meanwhile, the snowy setting seems to make for a fun backdrop to the battle to come.

But the other “war” is the one within Caesar, and we got a clearer look at his battle with his inner demons in the longer scene we saw. It’s a quieter, more intimate moment that reveals that as angry as Caesar has become, he’s still not so far gone he’ll kill a child. Or, for that matter, put up much of a fight when Maurice insists on bringing said child along with them. How exactly the relationship between the apes and their new human friend will develop as the war between the species intensifies… well, that ought to make for some interesting and heart-wrenching moments.

The scene also shows us how the other apes are reacting to Caesar, especially Maurice. They’re still deeply loyal to him, but they seem somewhat taken aback by his fury when he kills the man. Maurice seems to represent the angel on his shoulder — he’s the one who still has the deep empathy that Caesar is starting to lose, and he’s able to take a firm stance against Caesar. We all know how this war shakes out, since we know very well this is a Planet of the Apes prequel. But for Caesar’s sake, let’s hope Maurice is able to help him retain some shred of his empathy.

The Apes movies have gotten a lot of praise not just for their jaw-dropping special effects, but also for their depth of feeling and their deep compassion for their characters. War for the Planet of the Apes looks to carry on those traditions, in a very promising way.

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We’ve got more highlights from the War for the Planet of the Apes panel to come, so keep an eye out. It seems extremely unlikely the longer sequence described above will ever be released online (at least, in the form we saw it in), but if the War for the Planet of the Apes teaser trailer goes up you can rest assured we’ll have it up right away.

War for the Planet of the Apes arrives July 14, 2017.

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