Posted on Friday, December 9th, 2016 by Peter Sciretta
On January 13th, 2016, I traveled to Vancouver, British Columbia Canada to visit the set of Matt Reeves‘ War for the Planet of the Apes. After the jump you’ll be able to read a round-up of everything I learned while on the War for the Planet of the Apes set visit. Elsewhere on this site you can read interviews with some of the producers and stars of the film.
The Story of War for the Planet of the Apes
War for the Planet of the Apes takes place two years after Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Producer Dylan Clark believes this is the best opening for all of the ape films. The film begins with a serious military fight going on with the apes, resulting in the loss of many apes and humans.
The virus has found a rebirth, mutating and becoming more aggressive. The drug has evolved and has enabled Caesar to develop further. The apes learn that there are other apes outside of their tribe who are evolving and changing.
The film is not just about the war between the humans and the apes, but the conflict inside Caesar. The apes have found a promised land where they feel they can start over. Caesar decides he is no longer fit to lead the apes and goes on a dark journey to try to get revenge and find his humanity. War for the Planet of the Apes is more of a road trip story, and we’re on a journey through the western part of the United States.
The Apes Will Be a Larger Focus of This Movie
This film is set two years after Dawn of the Planet of the Apes because the filmmakers didn’t want to jump too far down the road as they wanted to see the next step in the evolution of the apes’ culture.
This film features more apes and fewer humans than the previous two installments. The ape characters were in about 30% of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, that number went up to 60 or 70%. This movie, War for the Planet of the Apes, will have apes in 95% of the finished film. They wanted human characters to provide as much obstacle, character, and resistance for Caesar. We will get a global perspective of the state of the world, but the films have been very POV-driven, so we will only see the apes through this one community.
In this film, Caesar is physically more human-like. He speaks better English, and the English language is his primary form of expression. The film has a lot more sign language. The apes have not progressed to full dialogue — it’s only been two years since we saw them last and the writers explored how much further these characters would have evolved in that time. The younger apes speak more but the older apes have evolved very little. The apes in War for the Planet of the Apes walk slightly more upright, in an evolution comparable to that change from Rise to Dawn.
An Epic Western Shot on 65mm Film
Producer Dylan Clark described the film as “a western and Caesar is Clint Eastwood.” This is a darker and more brutal film, not in an overly graphic way, but in its emotions and context.
War for the Planet of the Apes is being shot in 65mm cameras. The film will be converted to 3D in postproduction because they have the time in post to do it this time around and the filmmakers wanted to shoot the movie on 65mm film. They are trying to create an epic western, which is partially why they decided to shoot on 65mm as it benefits the exterior shots, as they often go high and wide. The producers reference filmmakers like David Lean for the look they are trying to achieve.
Despite using a larger resolution film format, they will not be rendering the effects at a higher resolution. It takes about 30 hours per frame to render the apes at 2K resolution. If they wanted to render the effects in 4K it would have added another year to the post-production schedule.
The scope of this movie is so much bigger than the last film. There are more sets and bigger sets. Most of the film is being shot on exterior sets, probably close to 70 percent of the movie. Out of 80 shooting days, they are on stage for only fifteen days. All the sets are 3D scanned, and WETA has them if they need them to recreate or film new shots in post with the performance capture actors. There is only one digital set that is an interior/exterior ape location. The tower at the end of the last film was entirely created digitally.
Horses are a huge part of this movie, and there are classic western style shots with apes on horses that will be a huge challenge for this film. The apes’ relationship with the horses is more “animal working with animal” than the typical human/horse relationship. They are hoping to include a moment between an ape and his horse that shows a deeper relationship.