War For The Planet of the Apes interview w/ Steve Zahn & scene descriptions

The reinvented PLANET OF THE APES franchise will continue in 2017 with WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, following on the heels of RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES and DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, and the latest entry looks to push the series even further into the Apes mythos, bringing us that much closer to the end result; a full Planet run by Apes. Recently, Fox held a preview event that showcased WAR, as well as some other titles, and gave us a peek at three scenes from the film (one of which was previewed at NYCC earlier this year). In addition, I sat down with star Steve Zahn, who plays an integral new character in the series known simply as "Bad Ape".

I've been a fan of Zahn's for years and was more than happy to sit down and chat with him about the film, as well as relaying a story where someone mistook me for him. It also gave me a chance to profess my love for SAVING SILVERMAN, but we talk plenty about WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES as well, so don't fret. Zahn talks about the opportunity to be in the Apes universe, how he got the gig, and much more. Take a look...

Next up is some scene descriptions of what I saw at the showcase event and my general reaction to it all. To be up front, I do enjoy the APES films, but I'm not an ardent fan. That said, I absolutely recognize the talent, skill, and passion behind these films and know that many adore them as much as any long-running franchise. Matt Reeves was on-hand to discuss the film a bit and said that the film is basically part action film/part western, with the main focus being Caesar attempting to track down the human army Colonel played by Woody Harrelson. Additionally, he said that "a great mystery is a big part of [the film]". What that could be is anyone's guess.

SCENE 1: Human Attack on Ape Position

This first sequence was pretty damn cool and is said to open the film. We follow a group of human soldiers patroling through a forested area. They are moving quietly and tactically and their gear is revealed as they move. Many of them have things written on their helmets, one of them saying "Monkey Killer". Their gear is mostly modern combat gear, but with more edged weapons, such as knives and axes, probably for more close quarter battle. The other surprising aspect of the human army is that they also have apes with them as spies, also dressed in full gear. It very much echoes the Vietnam era war film from the look, feel, and make-up of the troops.

At one point the soldiers stop as they spot an ape position, complete with sharpened wooden spears. The soldiers relay the information over radio to each other, using the term "Kong" as a way to identify the enemy (another Vietnam era nod, referring to the enemy as "Charlie"). The ape spies point out the various apes hidden in trees and a group of apes on horseback behind the position (also spotted: an albino ape!). They set up an ambush, firing off a rocket at the ape position and we see an explosion, whcih sends apes flying through the air. Then, all hell breaks loose.

The apes retaliate, using homemade spears, as well as their own explosives, showing they are far more advanced and organized than we've seen yet. The soldiers still have superiority with small arms and the ensuing battle leaves many humans and apes dead and littered throughout the forest. However, the apes on horseback ride back for reinforcements and return with another group to help overpower and take out the soldiers, leaving a few survivors to be captured. We then cut to a POV shot of a massive group of apes in the forested area gathered around, each of them moving away or bowing as Caesar enters the scene. He is obviously still their leader. Caesar walks toward the captured prisoners and faces them grimly.

A really cool scene and set a great tone for the film. This really is a war and both sides are obviously adapting to each other as it wages on. Since this is set two years after DAWN, much has transpired in that regard and it shows.

SCENE 2: Caesar and crew encounter human outpost

This is the same scene shown at NYCC earlier this year. Caesar and a group of apes, including the Orangutan known as Maurice, come upon a small human encampment inside some rundown shacks. A man walks into frame, carrying firewood and notices the apes, creating a standoff as the apes are all armed with guns. The man acts as if he is just going to drop the wood, but goes for his sidearm at the same time, whereupon he is quicky shot and killed. We see that it was Caeser that took the shot, showing a more no-nonsense and cold approach he is taking as he continues in this war.

He orders them to search the place and they head in, scrounging around. Maurice spots a young girl laying on a bed, scared out of her mind. Maurice approaches and there's some genuine suspense as you don't know if she (he?) is going to help or hurt the girl. Finally, Maurice reaches out and gives the girl a doll, which she takes. Maurice takes to the girl in what seems to be a parental-like bond.

As they set out to leave the little girl exits the building and stands over the body of the slain man. Maurice pleads with Caesar that they can't leave her. Caesar says it's better off to leave her and let her die. Maurice then says (all of this in "ape speak"} that she understands Caesar's reasoning, but says she still can't leave the girl. We then cut to all of them mounted up on horses on a beachfront, the young girl riding on the back of Maurice and staring at Caesar ominously.

An interesting scene that once again plays on the dynamic between apes and humans and their sense (or lacktherof) of compassion. It also shows the evolution of Caesar as becoming more of a resolute and cold leader, which is sure to weigh heavily on him in his rise to the top.

SCENE 3: Caesar meets "Bad Ape"

This new scene is by far the most interesting and the one that pushes this new series further than we've seen yet. We open in the high Sierras, where Caesar and his team are taking a recon break near a radio tower. The little girl they picked up at the oupost is waiting by the horses and doesn't notice what appears to be a person sneaking up and stealing a weapon off the saddle of one of them. However, one of the apes up on the tower does notice and yells out, kicking off a chase after the individual on horseback.

The apes chase the individual, shooting at him, as they race through what we see is actually an abandoned ski resort, complete with a ski lift and lodge. The thief escapes to the abandoned lodge and the apes follow, guns in hand, entering the desolate building. They follow a small lit area (like a tunnel or something) where the individual is revealed to be an ape in human clothing. He surrenders to Caesar and says he is a "Bad ape" (as in the way you'd chastice a dog "Bad dog"). Caesar is take aback as he finds that this "Bad Ape" can actually speak, just like him.

They cut to Bad Ape (portrayed by Steve Zahn) and Caesar's crew (along with the little girl) sitting around a fire in the lodge. Bad Ape is very energetic and crazy, but speaks fluently as he and Caesar have a conversation. It's the first true ape-to-ape conversation in the series yet and a big step forward for the series in that sense. Bad Ape is also keep on wearing clothes and offers clothes to the other apes in order to fend off the cold. They look on him strangely, but it's obvious he's on to something and that Bad Ape will be a bridge to their evolution. Bad Ape reveals he's from the San Diego Zoo (where he was apparently a "Bad Ape" hence the name). Caesar wants to know if there's more like him and wants Bad Ape to take him back there, but Bad Ape is vehemently against it, wanting to live safely hidden in the lodge.

Zahn's performance as Bad Ape is great and he's a perfect fit for the role. He supplies some much-needed comic relief (but more "he's crazy" comic relief, not slapstick type stuff), while bringing a new level of communication to the franchise. I think people will walk away from the film really loving this character out of all the new ones.

And that's it for the scenes. Overall, I'm more excited to see this film than I was for the last two, which I enjoyed, but didn't love. WAR feels like the franchise has found its legs and is advancing in a way that will get us to the eventual (hopefully) PLANET OF THE APES part of the series.

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES charges into theaters on July 14, 2017.

Source: JoBlo.com



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