Why War for the Planet of the Apes is The End of Caesar’s Story

As the new War for the Planet of the Apes trailer arrives, producer Peter Chernin talks concluding Caesar’s epic story.

A new trailer for War for the Planet of the Apes is now online and in conjunction with its arrival, Den of Geek spoke with the film’s producer, Peter Chernin, about the explosive trailer, the movie itself, and what is shaping up to clearly be the ending to one of the best film trilogies of recent years.

War for the Planet of the Apes follows the intelligent ape leader Caesar (Andy Serkis) as he leads his people on a grim quest for survival on an Earth ravaged by the fall of human society. But the apes’ path is blocked by a fanatical colonel (Woody Harrelson) who is leading an army of his own and is prepared to take on the apes in a battle that will determine which species will dominate the planet. Matt Reeves directs Serkis, Harrelson, Steve Zahn and the rest of his human and ape cast in the direct follow-up to his 2014 Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Regarding the message that the filmmakers hope to send out with this trailer, Chernin said, “We made a very conscious decision frankly, when we started thinking about this seven or eight years ago, to look at these three movies as a trilogy in a lot of ways…It was inevitable from the moment apes gained intelligence that apes and humans were going to be on a collision course for what would be the dominant species on Earth. And this movie is the war to resolve that dominance. We’ve always looked at this as a three-part story. And the appropriate ending of that story is to see which species dominates.”

Prior to the arrival of this morning’s full trailer, 20th Century Fox dropped a teaser featuring narration from the late Charlton Heston, star of the original Planet of the Apes, in which he quotes William Faulkner saying, “I refuse to accept the end of man.” Chernin acknowledged that this is clearly a homage to the original film and a subtle way to link this new trilogy to it. “Absolutely…part of it, inevitably, we wanted to lead towards a place where the first original Planet of the Apes movie started. Not necessarily in an obvious way, but hopefully we’ll surprise people with that.

“But I think from the moment we started this trilogy, we always had our eye on that original series of movies,” Chernin continued. “Both because we love them as filmmakers, but also, we’ve always wanted to acknowledge that those movies existed. So I think we’ve always in some ways tried to two things with the films, which is on the one hand tip our hat to the original series of the movies, and pay homage to them, and then at the same time do satisfying, important, meaningful standalone stories.”

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Chernin calls War for the Planet of the Apes a “deeply personal, emotional and more complex journey for Caesar,” and to that end, Andy Serkis, director Matt Reeves and the visual effects team have pushed the already astonishing motion capture used on the first two Apes films to new heights. “I was looking at that little clip we put out (Monday morning), and even in there, the leap in special effects from Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which is six years ago, the level of special effects in this movie are extraordinary, and make the Rise special effects look much more — they were amazing special effects, but we’ve made huge progress. So I think people are going to be blown away by the effects.

“But the thing that I think is really going to blow people away even more is Andy’s performance,” added Chernin. “Andy’s performance in this movie is, I think, one of the most moving, epic, emotionally filled performances I’ve seen in quite some time. The Caesar you see at the beginning of this movie is not the Caesar you see at the end of this movie or during the journey he goes through. And it is a remarkable testament to Andy’s acting.”

Even though War for the Planet of the Apes will bring this particular story — the one started six years ago in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and continued in 2014 with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes — to a conclusion, Chernin revealed that the Apes saga can go on beyond this set of films. “Look, obviously we are somewhat dependent upon the box office gods. We have a whole universe of ape stories that we would like to still be telling. We wanted to complete this conflict in this particular trilogy, but we’ve got a world of stories left to tell, if the public is gracious enough to ask us to do so.”

When we say jokingly that Chernin sounds confident that the current Apes series can break the dreaded “curse of the third movie” (meaning that the third film in a series always ends up being a letdown), the producer laughs, “I’m certainly confident that we’ve told ourselves to make sure we don’t do that…But obviously it’s up to the public to grade us on how successful we’ve been. But what I can say is that — which I think is the key to these things — we’ve had zero cynicism in this process. Every single person, no one more so obviously than Matt, has been killing themselves to see if we can up the bar and make a third movie that’s significantly better. And I believe this one is significantly better.”

Brace yourself for the decisive battle between simian and human, as War for the Planet of the Apes opens in just two months, on July 14.