Stepping into the second instalment of the rebooted Apes franchise, Cloverfield (2008) director Matt Reeves recently revealed to Comic Con his plans for next year's film and brought his cast for the ride.
"I was obsessed with Planet Of The Apes as a child; I wanted to BE an ape," says Reeves. "When I saw Rise, I felt that watching it made me an ape, and that happened because of what Rupert and Andy Serkis and Weta did, which was to connect with what being an ape was, and I wanted to honour that and carry it forward. We wanted to do a Caesar-centric story that started in the world of the apes."
"When that movie ended there was a viral apocalypse that was about to begin, and we all know that that story goes on a trajectory towards the original Planet Of The Apes. So how could we tell that story and bring in humans worthy of it? That's what we've tried to do."
Set 10 years after the events of Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, Reeves is keen to point out that “the movie is not a post apocalyptic film. Caesar rules a primitive but majestic kingdom. [This film is about] the way they come into being. They are thinking and wondering… are the humans gone? Because it’s all from their point of you. Then [once the human survivors are discovered], it becomes a question of survival. Can they co-exist and can they survive? Whether or not they can find a way to live together…”
"I asked them to show me the footage of everything Andy had done wearing the crazy grey suit that he wears, then I watched him up against the footage," says Reeves, talking about how he first approached the franchise. "It was so emotionally real. I think the key is you take the one fantastic element – they’re intelligent apes – and you let that be the one fantastical element. We went out to the woods, to use the natural light there, to keep it real. I want the reaction to be ‘Oh yeah, and they’re apes!’ You have the cover of the genre to protect you."
"I did not jump too far from the events of Rise," Reeves adds. "What was exciting for me was watching the apes learn how to speak. Three or four words in the first movie, here they are somewhere on the way to the '68 movie, where they are fully conversational."
Serkis had something to add on the language front too. "[The apes] communicate through the American sign language that allows for a universal sign language with the rest of the apes. There’s some gestures and vocal speaking. Then there are the young apes learning to speak better and faster than their parents."
"One of the big challenges of this movie was to take Caesar forward," says Serkis, "to have him become a leader with responsibility for a society of 2000 apes, to inject some of the humanity he grew up with into that society so it would be a peaceful and egalitarian one. He's ten years older; he's a leader, a mature leader; he has a wife and teenage son. It's really all about the choices and reactions to the arrival of the humans and Caesar's response to that. It's about teaching the apes language as well as sign language. It's very rich and fertile ground for exploring the inner ape and also a lot about humanity."
"What's great about the Apes franchise is it's about us," said Reeves, "a way to look at our nature. The movie is really about character and psychology. It's about who are these characters and how do we get from A to Z."
With Jason Clarke (Lawless, Zero Dark Thirty), Keri Russell (Dark Skies), Judy Greer (The Descendants) and Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight Rises) rounding out the cast, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes will be in screens on 18 July 2014.