Stuff You Should Know: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

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The Planet of the Apes franchise hit a bit of a rough patch a few years ago with that Tim Burton-helmed remake. You know, the one that starred Marky Mark Mark Wahlberg. The one where this happened…

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Okay, maybe it wasn’t exactly that, but it was close. We have to be concerned with spoilers and such in case someone reading this has never seen that last Apes debacle. Surely you understand.

Given the events of recent Planet of the Apes history, you might not be too excited to know that a new entry in the Apes franchise, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, is on the horizon. We weren’t all that excited either. At least not at first. But we had a chance this past weekend to spend some time with the people making Rise of the Planet of the Apes happen at the Rise 50 Summit at 20th Century Fox Studios. We met with the director (Rupert Wyatt), producer (Peter Chernin), effects supervisor (Joe Letteri) and the CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment (Tom Rothman). We came away from those meetings with one thought…we’re pretty damn excited about what’s in store for this long running franchise.

Here are nine reasons why we’re looking forward to Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

It’s a Prequel, Not a Sequel

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There’s been one rather large question that’s gone unanswered in the Planet of the Apes saga up until now. Exactly how did these damn dirty apes go from making funny faces in movies and flinging feces around to holding intelligent conversations and taking over the world? It’s an awfully large leap, you know?

Finally, that’s being answered in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. This time around, the story revolves around the events that led to the apes, well, rising. Hence the title of the movie.

So how does it happen, exactly? We can’t tell you everything, but we can tell you this…DO NOT fuck with science. Awesomely, those aren’t even our words, they come straight from the mouth of Tom Rothman, Chairman and CEO at Fox Filmed Entertainment. And he said something else this past weekend that was quite interesting…

This Movie Almost Never Happened

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After reading the script for Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Rothman loved the idea, but there was one problem. The technology needed to make a film of this scope happen literally didn’t exist yet. Granted, the film still likely could have been made, it just couldn’t be made correctly.

Avatar Changed That

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Avatar wasn’t just one of the highest grossing films of all-time, it was an unprecedented technological marvel. No matter where you stand on the actual plot or movie, there’s no denying that Avatar looked incredible. According to Rothman, the innovations that came about during the making of that film paved the way for the making of Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

So, if you’re expecting another film filled with gigantic dudes running around in prosthetic monkey suits, think again, because…

Rise is a Huge Departure from the Other Apes Films

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To drive home just how different Rise of the Planet of the Apes will be compared to the other films in the franchise, Rothman showed us a screen test of the original Planet of the Apes. After having spent a few hours looking at clips from the upcoming installment in all it’s computer generated technological glory, suddenly being faced with Charlton Heston talking to a guy in an ape suit wearing a doctor’s lab coat actually brought some laughs from the audience. What’s coming up is nothing like what we’ve seen from the Apes franchise in the past. And that’s a good thing.

There’s one focus of the new film that we’re especially looking forward to…

Believability Is Essential

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And there it is. Believability. It’s been one thing that nearly every Planet of the Apes movie has lacked. It’s been all but impossible to look at the Apes of the past and see anything but a guy in a borderline hilarious gorilla suit. But there are no suits this time around. In Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the animals are created using CGI.

That might send chills down the spine of a Planet of the Apes purist (do those exist?) at first, but that should all be resolved upon seeing the results of that work for the first time. Look at the ape in the pictures above. It looks pretty damn real, and pretty damn terrifying. The only thing that differentiates it from your average chimp is…that look. It’s obvious that beast has bad things on its mind.

That attention to detail didn’t just happen by accident. There’s some computer trickery behind it. For example…

They’re Using Motion Capture Technology

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During our time with the Rise crew, we saw several behind the scenes clips that demonstrated the lengths that WETA, the same special effects people behind Avatar, went to in order to get the unsettling facial expressions that play such a huge part in the movie just right. Hundreds of motion capture dots were placed on the face of the actor who plays Caesar, the lead ape and lead character in the movie.

That’s right, the ape is the star this time around. Sorry Charlton Heston. And speaking of that lead character…

They’ve Brought In the Best

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It probably caught more than a few casual observers off guard when they realized that Gollum from the Lord of the Rings movies wasn’t just a product of a computer program. There was an actor behind all of that creepiness. That actor, of course, is Andy Serkis. If you’re familiar with his work, then you know that the man is an absolute legend when it comes to motion capture work. From what we were able to see of his performance over the weekend on Rise of the Planet of the Apes, he’s most definitely at the top of his game. If a computer generated ape is going to carry a movie, Andy Serkis is the perfect person to make sure it goes down without a hitch.

However, Serkis could have all the necessary movements and facial expressions down to an art, but it would all be for naught if the apes don’t look real. WETA is making sure that’s not a problem. How serious are they about making sure everything looks real? Approximately this serious…

They Wrote New Software Just to Get the Ape Hair Right

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The hair! Just the hair. All new software, just to make sure the hair on the apes does what it’s supposed to do when the wind blows or when a gigantic sledgehammer is being hurled at a police car or when an army of apes have taken over the Golden Gate Bridge (trust us, you want to see that scene).

That is what they call dedication, folks. But another thing Rise of the Planet of the Apes has going for it is that it’s not just explosions and monkey fights. In fact…

There’s Something for Everybody

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There’s more to the plot of this film than “mess with science, apes go apeshit.” James Franco doesn’t just start monkeying around (sorry) with biology for the hell of it. He’s actually trying to do some good. The kind of good that any of us would try to do if we were capable. The kind of good that saves lives. The kind of good that saves your family members. It’s that fight between wanting him to succeed but all along knowing what kind of hell he might unleash that makes Rise… much more than just an action film.

Like we said, we were skeptical at first, but after having a chance to get a closer look at what’s happening with the franchise, we’re pretty damn excited to see how it turns out.

So there you have it. Needless to say, we’re looking forward to this movie. What are your thoughts? Share them in the comments section below. And don’t forget, we’re still giving away a pretty sweet gift courtesy of the good people behind Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Click here to find out how to enter and win!

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