With all the superheroes who have been dominating the box office of late, it’s easy to forget that there are other highly promising blockbusters on the horizon. Perhaps none releasing this summer, however, are as promising as Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, a wildly anticipated sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes that picks up the story some ten years later, after a devastating virus wipes out most of the human population. Andy Serkis, who stars through motion capture as head ape Caesar, recently spoke to Dread Central about the film. You can surf on over there for the full interview, or look below for the highlights.
In the interview, Serkis discussed the plot for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which follows Caesar’s attempts to control his growing ape army and defend them against a group of human survivors led by the mysterious Dreyfus (Gary Oldman). Serkis said of the story:
“It sets up a world where you’re finally in a beautiful, utopian Garden of Eden really, that is suddenly shattered in a violent and dramatic way.
Caesar ten years on since yesterday, he’s galvanized all these tribes of apes, and it’s succeeding, it’s working. The next generation is becoming educated; the design of their community reflects their intelligence. They are resourceful, they can build aqueducts, they have plentiful food supplies, they respect each other as different species: Gorilla, Orangutan, Chimpanzee can all speak equally and communicate equally. Until the arrival of human beings, who, by the way, are not the villains of the film! They are also a species who are very much suffering from being almost completely wiped out.
So we’re encouraged to see really both sides, the human and the ape, of the story. It’s not over celebrating a peaceful ape community at all but realizing that both sides have complexities and necessities and things that drive them, and what they’re prepared to do to save their own tribe.”
Serkis later added:
“This is a very balanced film, it’s not siding with the ape story, and the human story is just as important; it’s not saying one is more important than the other. And it truly is about prejudice and empathy. There are certain characters from the human side and certain characters from the ape side who want to make things work, who want to engage, who want to find peaceful solutions- and there are characters who don’t, and that’s the world we live in.”
It’s interesting that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes won’t take a clear side in the ape-human conflict; though, given the title, it seems pretty clear who emerges victorious in that battle. The greater themes of the Planet of the Apes franchise also came up in the interview, and Serkis had some very interesting things to say:
“I think these films were always about civil rights, and I think that metaphor carries through and resonates with audiences worldwide. Why do you think the Apes franchise has endured so long? Because anthropomorphizing is something that we do, even with our pets, and we do that because we have grown further away from animals and are encouraged to see ourselves as an elevated species; when in fact we could learn quite a bit more from animals. And we learn so much more from apes, because they are so close to us genetically.
I don’t think there’s one specific metaphor; when Rise of the Planet of the Apes came out, the Arab spring was happening, there were riots in London, there was an attitude of real unrest and people wanting change, and being oppressed, and standing up and saying, “I’ve had enough,” and not knowing what’s going to happen next. And we’re still in the throes of that worldwide. The beginning of this movie is setting up a society, which may or may not work but seems to be working, until something else happens that conflicts with that.”
Serkis also discussed acting as Caesar, saying:
“You’re always drawing on aspects of your own person. For instance, the journey of Caesar and his teenage son, River, for me is very much based on my relationship with my teenage son. You have to access those emotions- that’s current and relevant to me right now, it’s tangible and that’s what breathes life and truth into a character and a performance. There are also points in this film where I’ve had to build myself up to a point of rage that is out of control and very aggressive; and you have to go there; you can’t hide behind anything when you’re playing these kind of roles.”
Serkis is a highly talented performer, and it’s going to be a real thrill to watch him play Caesar again this summer. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes opens in IMAX 3D on July 11th.