Members of the media were wowed at Event Cinemas in Sydney today with a twenty-minute screening of the upcoming The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. This was the first time that the reel had been seen outside of the WETA Workshop offices, and was nothing short of incredible. This sneak peak was followed by an exclusive Q&A with the VFX Supervisor from WETA, Erik Winquist.
After the highly successful Rise of the Planet of the Apes in 2011, (which undoubtedly relaunched the 1968 franchise in a way that the 2001 remake could only have dreamed), expectations are unsurprisingly high. The film picks up approximately a decade after the events of the first prequel, and introduces the audience to both an overgrown San Francisco and an exponentially larger, and even more intelligent, tribe of apes. Still being led by Caesar (Andy Serkis), the apes have created their own home that’s purposely separated from any humans. And who could blame them, really? Things seem to be relatively peaceful until the two worlds begin to collide and the threat of war hangs over the heads of both species.
Some of the most impressive elements of the film are the visual effects, which deliver on a grand scale. WETA VFX Supervisor Erik Winquist stated that this was his most difficult film to shoot and edit to date, which is saying something considering the films that he’s worked on in the past. Interestingly, the entirety of the film was shot in 3D, as opposed to adding it in post-production. This was a risky choice, and as Winquist explained, could have led to a “torpedo” of productivity. One might question the necessity of this step when it could have so easily impacted upon the scheduling of the film. Luckily, no problems arose and all went to plan during the 3D filming.
Another interesting element to the filming process was the vast employment of motion capture. Despite the fact that the third act is reportedly almost entirely CGI, Winquist divulges that almost everything else you see on the screen is motion captured. This is where seasoned experts such as Andy Serkis were truly able to shine. As the conflicted Caesar, his emotions are just as captivating and heart wrenching as if you were really seeing his face. Apparently, this reaction isn’t unique to audiences; Winquist himself describes the way in which Serkis was able to draw tears from those on set, despite having the majority of his face impeded by motion capture gear. Suffice to say, he absolutely deserves to be nominated for a mainstream Academy Award for his work.
In addition to Serkis, a large portion of the motion capture cast were sourced from the Tempest Freerunning Academy in LA due to their experience with mind blowing form and movement. Due to the strength and specific movements of the apes, unique and formidable talents were needed for these motion capture roles. I can say without hesitation that this translates beautifully to the screen, and that the talent of the motion capture performers, are incredible. In fact, the quality will help to highlight the film’s themes of morality and humanity, which will hopefully resonate with audiences. This will undoubtedly come to a head when the protagonist, Jason Clarke, and his family play out a Dances with Wolves style scenario with Caesar and his family.
Having seen a snapshot of the film that is to come, I have no doubt that audiences will be absolutely blown away by both the performances and the visual effects. An immense amount of dedication, intricacy and emotion has gone into the performances and post-production work, and this is clearly evident in the finished product. Some scenes are so realistic that animal lovers such as myself may have a hard time watching it, which is a testament to the quality of WETA’s work. This movie seems to certainly have been worth the wait, and audiences are unlikely to be disappointed.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes opens in Australia on July 9th.
The official Australian website is here: http://www.dawnoftheplanetoftheapes.com.au/
And you can watch the brand new trailer here: