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Behind the Scenes: War for the Planet of the Apes

Since 1968, humans and apes have been battling on screen. Franklin Schaffner’s PLANET OF THE APES began a franchise in which apes have dominated, escaped, and fought with humans for earth. The newest film, WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES directed by Matt Reeves, will be released on July 14, 2017. It is the follow-up to DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES.

Science & Film attended a preview event for the new film at Walter Reade Theater with director Matt Reeves and actor Steve Zahn, who plays a new character–Bad Ape. A selection from the conversation between Zahn and Reeves, moderated by Dave Karger, is available to stream below.

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES was shot on location. Actors played the parts and were then rendered as apes using a technology called motion capture (mo-cap). There were two crews for each shoot–the mo-cap crew and the film crew. Dan Lemmon supervised the visual effects.

In the film, the main character is the ape Caesar who was raised by humans. Because he has empathy for both species, Caesar serves as the go-between. Apes and humans seem to have intelligence on par with one another. Apes communicate with sign language, and they use human weapons.

In the real world, scientists are actively studying the cognitive abilities of apes. Ethologist and author of What a Fish Knows Jonathan Balcombe wrote for Science & Film that, “Chimpanzees have immense social acumen. They can take the perspective of another, and they form alliances. They can quickly take stock of a situation and calibrate their most advantageous course of action—which might account for a chimp’s uncanny ability to remember numerical arrays on a computer screen at a level far above that of the sharpest human.” In the PLANET OF THE APES franchise, if peace is not won, then it becomes a planet of the apes. Balcombe continued, “As human populations grow, wild habitats shrink, global temperatures rise and weather patterns worsen, we really have no choice but to enter a new relationship with nature.”

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES stars Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Andy Serkis, Amiah Miller, and Karin Konoval. It is written and directed by Matt Reeves.