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The Planet of the Apes prequel trilogy that has been playing out since 2011 has brought audiences on an amazing cinematic ride. Not only have the movies all been intensely thrilling and fun, but it's also simply been a jaw-dropping experience watching the evolution of the various ape characters on screen (led by Andy Serkis' performance as Caesar). It turns out the latter part was something that writer/director Matt Reeves was very keen on deeply exploring with the trilogy capper, War For The Planet Of The Apes, which is why it's the first in this particular series to have every scene include an ape. The director recently said,
With Dawn [Of The Planet of the Apes], what I was pushing was the story is not as much Caesar's as what we ended up making. But there still needed to be a human counterpoint story that was a point of view shift, because there was such a dramatic shift from the world of Rise [Of The Planet of the Apes]to the world of Dawn. But with that having been done, I knew that in War [For The Planet Of The Apes] we could take this and make it a completely ape [point of view]. There's no scene in this movie that does not have apes in it! And that is very challenging, but it's also very exciting, because to me it is playing to the strength of what Weta does and what these movies are.
Along with Weta's Joe Letteri and Dan Lemmon, we had the chance to sit down with Matt Reeves during a New York press day for War For The Planet Of The Apes earlier this month, and part of the conversation included a breakdown of what makes the new movie standout from its predecessors. While discussing the development of the sequel following the making of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the director highlighted exactly what it is about the franchise that he loves, and what he wanted to do with the third title as a result of that love.
Matt Reeves explained that when he went to go see Rupert Wyatt's Rise of the Planet of the Apes, he was amazed by the fact that the movie wound up being from a completely different perspective than he had gone in expecting. It was this surprise that led him to take on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which ultimately gave him the ability to push that envelope even further. Said the filmmaker,
All I knew is that I wanted to take us on a journey that was more in Caesar's perspective than anything we'd ever done. Because for me, the big thing about Rise was that you went in thinking it was going to be one thing and surprised with the movie that it's actually Caesar's story. By the end of the movie you realize, 'Oh, the most human character, the character I most related to, is an ape!' Which is a crazy thing, and why that's a groundbreaking movie. I had always thought the work [Weta] had done and the characters that Andy [Serkis] played, it was remarkable, fascinating to watch, but there's something about the level of emotional identification in Rise that reached a new high point.
It's worth noting that War For The Planet Of The Apes isn't entirely without its human characters, as they still play the primary antagonist role in the movie, but the change in perspective that Reeves talks about is real. While there were multiple scenes in both Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes that were driven by James Franco's Will or Jason Clarke's Malcolm, War For The Planet Of The Apes marks the first time you are seeing it all play out from the experience of our genetic cousins.
Of course, this transition could wind up leading to something perhaps even more special in the future. Specifically, it is likely that technology has gotten to a point where it is very possible that an entire movie can be made with only ape characters and no humans -- similar to what franchise fans got with Battle For The Planet Of The Apes back in 1973. As Matt Reeves directly points out, it would be a serious challenge for any filmmaker to take on -- but it's through taking on projects like these that help the industry advance.