When the gods dance...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Comic-Con 2011: ‘The Planet of the Apes’ Rises And Picks Up an Assault Rifle

A significant portion of the 20th Century Fox Panel was dedicated to the upcoming August release of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a prequel to the popular Apes franchise that focuses on Caesar, a laboratory animal that first gets smart and then gets revenge.

The panel started with a “research clip” that showed rebel soldiers in Africa teasing a chimpanzee by mocking it. Aping it, if you will. The chimpanzee got the last laugh, and most of the laughs in between, when he picked up an AK-47 assault rifle and within seconds figured out that pulling the trigger made it go bang, and the bang sound made all the mean men run away like little girls.

After the clip played, director Rupert Wyatt came out and discussed animal rights before Caesar himself stole the show.

Sort of. See, that’s a called a tease and if you’re reading this now, it worked.

Rupert Wyatt did come out and briefly discussed the technology behind making the movie and how motion capture has evolved over the years. For example, while Gollum is great, he is one object on the screen, while Rise of the Planet of the Apes can have as many as 150 motion performances on the screen at one time – a whole lot of monkeying around, if you will.

In terms of animal rights, what Wyatt actually said is that it would have been ironic to use a bunch of live animals when telling a story about exploiting animals, implying that it’s exploitative to use live animals in film. While that may be true in some instances (I’ve personally witnessed how some of the more stubborn animals are trained, and it involves mild electric shocks from a cattle prod), what I really think Wyatt meant is he didn’t want to pay some kid exclusively to walk around with a trash bag and a shovel to pick up the three pounds of fecal material that each primate produces a day.

I completely made that number up.

Back to my earlier tease – Caesar didn’t actually take the stage either, but the man behind his performance did. Andy Serkis hit the stage to introduce a few clips, one of which showed how his live performance was transformed into the animated performance of a chimpanzee, which was quite amazing. The depth of emotion that comes through both Serkis and Caesar is jaw-dropping.

The clips that were shown featured about 30% new footage, including a scene where Caesar comes to the aide of John Lithgow (who plays Franco’s father) and lays a beat down on an asshole neighbor. This was followed by a “sizzle reel” of the third act which showed expanded sequences from what is already in the trailers for the film. But just because I’ve seen it before, doesn’t mean it wasn’t awesome, as we did see a mounted police officer with a baton attempt to joust a gorilla and a machine gunner in a helicopter open up on a bridge full of assorted primates. The sequence then came to its explosive climax with a suicidal gorilla deciding that he fucking hates helicopters and that he really wants to jump inside of one and face punch a pilot.

All in all there wasn’t anything new or exciting from the panel, it was just old and exciting, but the eventual DVD release should have some amazing footage showing Serkis’s performance side by side with the on-screen results. That’s definitely something to look forward to.

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