IN THE 1970s, the Planet Of The Apes films got smaller and smaller, at­tempts to max­imise prof­its lead­ing to di­min­ish­ing cre­ative re­turns. Four decades on, the op­po­site is true for the re­vived fran­chise, where the key word might be “es­ca­la­tion”. Ori­gin story Rise Of The Planet Of

The Apes was almost a do­mes­tic story, lead­ing to in­tel­lec­tu­ally awak­ened apes as­sault­ing the Golden Gate Bridge. Se­quel Dawn upped the ac­tion and had its share of big bat­tles. But writer/di­rec­tor Matt Reeves’ lat­est in­stal­ment in the ad­ven­tures of chief chimp Cae­sar (Andy Serkis) is an all-out War For The Planet Of The Apes. “We looked at the orig­i­nal movie, of course,” says Reeves, “but this time we also took in­spi­ra­tion from films like Paths

Of Glory and The Bridge On The River Kwai.”

The movie picks up two years on from Dawn, with apes and hu­mans still at log­ger­heads. Fol­low­ing the de­struc­tion of their habi­tat at the end of the pre­vi­ous film, Cae­sar has led his tribe back into the woods, and be­come an almost myth­i­cal fig­ure to the hu­man mil­i­tary forces on his trail, led by Woody Har­rel­son’s Colonel (see right) and his elite unit, the Al­pha-omega (a nod to the bomb cult from 1970’s Be­neath The Planet Of The

Apes). Sad­dled with a war he didn’t want thanks to the ac­tions of Koba, Cae­sar is in an an­guished state, the peace he de­sires seem­ingly unattain­able. “He’s at rock bot­tom,” says Serkis, “and it’s been in­ter­est­ing play­ing a side of him that’s full of rage, but but­toned-down be­cause he’s on a mis­sion. He’s usu­ally a peace-bro­ker who con­sid­ers ev­ery­thing care­fully, but this time some­thing tips him over the edge. There’s an event early on that sends him off on a re­venge jour­ney.” Hell­bent on com­plet­ing his quest, he only grudg­ingly al­lows Mau­rice (Karin Kono­val), Rocket (Terry No­tary) and Luca (Michael Adamth­waite) to ac­com­pany him.

Af­ter two largely static films, the se­ries’ scope is set to be­come broader, the apes’ jour­ney tak­ing in lush forests, beaches, aban­doned ho­tels, mil­i­tary com­pounds, caves and ul­ti­mately a moun­tain range — where Serkis says the tech­nol­ogy is “snow-cap” as op­posed to mo-cap. Be­tween Rise and Dawn there were con­sid­er­able de­vel­op­ments in mo­tion-cap­ture tech­nol­ogy, re­sult­ing in much ex­cite­ment about wet fur. This time the leap has been more in­cre­men­tal, but there

will be frosty pelts, not to men­tion many com­plex en­vi­ron­ments for the VFX techi­cians to ne­go­ti­ate.

As Cae­sar and his co­horts trek on, there’s a mys­tery to be solved in­volv­ing the Colonel’s enig­matic back­ground, and the im­promptu adop­tion of an or­phaned hu­man child (Amiah Miller). Then there’s the rev­e­la­tion that ape in­tel­li­gence has spread be­yond Cae­sar’s im­me­di­ate com­mu­nity: Cae­sar en­coun­ters a new ape (Steve Zahn), who es­caped from a cir­cus years back and has been evolv­ing alone. “A French jour­nal­ist asked me a cou­ple of years ago if French apes are smart too,” smiles pro­ducer Dy­lan Clark. “I thought that was a great ques­tion, and here we get the an­swer: there are def­i­nitely other smart apes out there.”

As well as boast­ing spec­tac­u­lar set-pieces, this prom­ises to be the most emo­tional in­stal­ment yet. Serkis en­thuses about Cae­sar’s “re­ally rich arc” in the film, as he comes to re­alise the fu­til­ity of the path he’s taken. Reeves says there are also West­ern el­e­ments, par­tic­u­larly evok­ing Clint East­wood’s gritty ’70s clas­sic The Out­law Josey Wales.

“You’re get­ting all these in­cred­i­ble ac­tors to play these apes and re­lat­ing to them as real char­ac­ters,” the di­rec­tor en­thuses. “We never lose sight of what’s go­ing on at an in­ti­mate level.” As is tra­di­tional for the Apes se­ries since its be­gin­nings in Pierre Boulle’s novel, War For The Planet Of The

Apes pro­vides am­ple op­por­tu­nity for me­taphors re­lat­ing to our own world. The spec­ta­cle con­tin­ues to serve the cen­tral gloomy ques­tion: why can’t we all just get along?

Re­la­tions be­tween hu­mans and apes are show­ing no signs of get­ting any eas­ier. Well, it’s not called ‘Po­lite Wa­ger For The Planet Of The Apes’.

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