Sequel to “Planet of the Apes”: “Show apes as they are”

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Written By Maya Cantina

American director Wes Ball about science fiction as historical epic, communication between animals and humans and motion capture of great apes.

Chimpanzees with bats in the forest.  scene

Almost Real: Animated Chimpanzees in “Planet of the Apes: New Kingdom” Photo: Walt Disney Studios

The dystopian novel “La Planète des singes” by Pierre Boulle (1963) portrays a planet ruled by intelligent, talking great apes. However, the ‘wild’ people who live there remain silent. The human narrators discover that it was once the other way around and that the apes fought back against their oppressors. After the first film in 1968, a Planet of the Apes (POTA) franchise emerged: four feature films in the 1970s, Tim Burton filmed the material in 2001 and a reboot followed in 2011. The new sequel was directed by the director of the science fiction trilogy “Maze Runner,” Wes Ball. It takes place 300 years after the last part.

taz: Wes Ball, in your film there are a lot of interactions and hierarchies between species: monkeys riding horses, training birds of prey, which then get involved, different species of primates fighting each other. Are you actually a nature filmmaker?

Wes ball: Apparently… No, the monkeys on the horses have always been one of the iconic images from the series. And with falconry we wanted to show that monkeys went through a similar civilization process as humans. Domesticating dogs is part of human development. But dogs don’t match monkeys, partly because of their size. That’s why we gave them falconry, this almost symbiotic relationship with birds of prey, which they use as a hunting tool, even as a weapon. Plus it’s a cool photo.

This doesn’t really make it seem like science fiction; it looks more like a retro-futuristic nature film.

I told the crew we were filming a historical epic. It’s a bit as if the monkeys go through different geological eras: the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. They come up with more and more.

American director Wes Ball was born in 1980 and studied at the FSU College of Motion Picture Arts. His previous films include “Maze Runner: The Chosen in the Labyrinth” (2014), “Maze Runner: The Chosen in the Burning Desert” (2015) and “Maze Runner: The Chosen in the Dead Zone” (2018).

Although the “Macguffin” is a kind of computer chip that the human character Mae is looking for, books play a big role – they are called an “ancient way of storing knowledge”, someone lives in a library, later the monkeys discover children’s books , in which animals are kept in zoos. How is that possible?

‘Knowledge is power’ is the basic idea of ​​the film. The primate protagonist Noah knows more than the human protagonist. And the characters in the film don’t make weapons, but expand their knowledge. The books symbolize Noah’s ability to acquire or rediscover knowledge – over the course of the story he even intuitively discovers how electricity works by repairing a broken stun gun used by the antagonists. I love the story of Copernicus, who discovered that the earth revolves around the sun. It was not until 200 years later that this theory was recognized. His knowledge was lost for so long – that’s what I thought about when I heard the story about the rediscovered books. This can be continued: What lost knowledge will the monkeys rediscover? Will they make the same mistakes we did?

The story itself is coming of age combined with adventure and many archetypal characters – Noah must assert himself against his father and goes on a hero’s journey with his companions…

Yes, the ingredients are known: Noah has to complete tasks such as stealing an eagle egg, he has to develop. He is helped by the older, wise “guide” character Raka, an orangutan; the megalomaniac bonobo ‘Proximus’. I think having such archetypal characters can only benefit a fantasy movie with talking monkeys. They bring us back to Earth.

The last POTA film was special because the monkeys communicated almost exclusively in sign language. Why are they talking again?

The decision came from the story – about the “POTA”Timeline: We’re well before 1968 original film in which the monkeys speak fluently. So they must slowly move towards language, even if they still sign as part of their communication. Of course, we know that monkeys can’t really talk because their vocal cords aren’t designed for that. That’s why we tried to make her speech rhythm sound broken. Even Proximus, which uses a lot of words, is not fluent.

Humans and primates can actually communicate using sign language – have you used that?

Our signs are based on the official AAmerican Sign Language ASL, some are also used by the great ape language, where humans communicate with monkeys – there was the female gorilla Koko, who communicated with more than 1,000 characters in “Gorilla Sign Language”. We also invented signs. A sign language expert advised us on set.

The human characters in the film are ambivalent: young Mae has her own agenda. Trevathan, played by William H. Macy and living with the “evil” tribe of monkeys, is also dark – because the monkeys are supposed to be the heroes?

Yes, the older films were often about an animal entering the human world; we wanted to tell the story from the monkey’s perspective. In this ape world, where hardly any humans exist, Mae, a dark character, appears who messes everything up. At some point we have to get to the premise of the 1968 film. It seems that apes have decided to eradicate all signs of human life. We want to tell you why.

The film questions whether apes and humans can even live together. Is this a metaphor for the destruction of nature?

Yes, for the destruction of nature and ourselves. Moreover, it also represents interpersonal conflicts. Good science fiction should be an allegory of our society. We didn’t want to preach too clearly. But you can interpret a lot in it.

Chimpanzees live in matriarchal structures – why don’t they do that in your film?

Well, for example, with Noah’s mother we have a character who, after the death of his father, receives the eagle in his arms and perhaps becomes the village chief. But it is true that some roles may still be too gender typical. At least we have a lot more female apes than in the last three films.

The original film with Charlton Heston starred Dr. Zira, played by Kim Hunter…

WHERE. In any case, it was a challenge to depict female monkeys in such a way that they would be recognized as such; people do not always see sexual dismorphism, that is, the difference in appearance between male and female animals. And we didn’t want to just put clothes on them, or extend their eyelashes, or do whatever animated movies do. We have therefore tried to clarify this with other facial expressions.

The monkeys are animated using motion capture, their voices are provided by actors. How important was the voice casting?

Very important. In addition, the actors had to portray monkeys believably, no matter how strange that may sound. They needed a voice that matched an animal. They had to be physically able to move in an animalistic manner and have the desire to put on the elaborate costume, have a camera with motion capture points on their face at all times and look believable. Fascinating to see the main actor, Owen Teage, transform into the monkey. The acting is just as good as in films without costumes.

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