At a New York Comic Con event in Times Square Thursday night, 20th Century Fox debuted the first teaser for War For The Planet Of The Apes. The trailer shows Andy Serkis’ Caesar—the talking chimp who has become the heart of these movies—going head to head with a nasty colonel played by Woody Harrelson. By the end, Harrelson’s voiceover takes over: “This is our last stand” he warns, cautioning that should the humans fail Earth will become a “planet of apes.”
That spot-on bit of dialogue, however, doesn’t mean the third installment in the rebooted franchise leads the audience to a time when apes reign, as they did in the original Charlton Heston film. “Even at the end of this film it’s still not the world of the Heston film. So there’s still this huge question, well how does it become that?” director Matt Reeves explained in an interview with The A.V. Club the following day. “So we see there being a big epic journey that takes you there and all of the detail to explore human nature and all of the events that created that world in the ’68 movie without trying to redo the world in the ’68 movie.” (The new movies, it should be noted, are not intended as prequels.)
During Thursday’s panel, Reeves explained that War takes place two years after the events of Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, in which Caesar killed his anti-human compatriot Koba (Toby Kebbell). Caesar’s now a battle-hardened version of the hero—with shades of “badass Clint Eastwood,” as Reeves described him at the panel—and he’s starting to share some of Koba’s beliefs about his foes. In an unfinished scene shown to the Comic Con audience, Caesar and his cohort come across an abandoned girl, unable to speak. While the orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval) wants to bring her with them, Caesar is reluctant. Maurice ends up winning, and the child, played by Amiah Miller, ends up being a “major part of the film,” Reeves told us. (The footage shown was unfinished, giving attendees a window in the mo-cap process—from Serkis in dots on a horse to a crude animation to a more recognizable ape.)
But there are also more threatening homo sapiens, namely Harrelson’s colonel. “We didn’t want to create an antagonist who was a sort of ruthless villain with no reason,” Reeves explained during our chat. “The truth is that Woody’s character is created by his circumstances.” Thus, he and Caesar find common ground as well. On Thursday, Serkis teased that the two are “inexorably drawn to each other, trying to understand each other’s philosophies.” Producer Dylan Clark referenced The Bridge On The River Kwai, when describing their relationship. It’s not really about the humans, though. “I came in on Dawn and said, ‘Guys, you have earned the right to make it a Caesar point of view movie, and we really pushed it in dawn, and it’s even stronger in this one,’” Reeves said.
War For The Planet Of The Apes is due out July 14, 2017.