Gorilla warfare: Behind the visuals of ‘Planet of the Apes’

Frankie Taggart –
As Caesar sits astride a horse rallying his legions to battle you’d be forgiven for thinking you were watching a Roman-era war epic — except that the protagonist is a chimpanzee.
‘War for the Planet of the Apes’, the third installment of the rebooted simian sci-fi franchise, opens on Friday to reviews lauding some of the most breathtaking visual effects ever seen in cinema.
Behind the photo-real apes is Weta Digital, a pioneering Wellington-based CGI studio founded by Peter Jackson that has seen its reputation grow steadily since its groundbreaking performance-capture work on his ‘The Lord of the Rings’ movies.
Filmed against the stark snowy vistas of Alberta and British Columbia, ‘War’ sees director Matt Reeves unleash the rapidly evolving simians into a world boiling over with divisions and rage.
A band of soldiers led by a battle-hardened loose cannon — Woody Harrelson channeling Marlon Brando’s Colonel Kurtz — launches an all-out attack to destroy the apes once and for all.
The movie is driven by Andy Serkis as the majestic Caesar, reprising a role for which he has drawn even more acclaim than for his other digital characters, Gollum in ‘Rings’ and ‘King Kong’.
“Physically in this film, Caesar is much more upright and he uses his hands a lot more now, so he’s more like a human being in ape skin,” Serkis says in the production notes.
The 53-year-old actor, whom many believe should have won an Oscar for his pioneering work, has always maintained there is no difference between playing a part in a motion-capture suit and performing in costume and makeup. ‘War’ features a dozen key ape characters that interact with increasing sophistication, not just with each other, but with their environment, including falling snow.
The crew included a team of 50 visual effects personnel, a 10-person camera unit and an army of data wranglers, surveyors and photographers who 3-D scanned every inch of every set and location.
They crafted an array of more than 1,400 highly complex effects shots, deploying advanced software bringing new levels of complexity to how digital fur behaves and interacts with the world.
The crew studied how snow sticks to fur, clumps on it, falls off and reacts as the apes walk through their wintry environments.
‘War’ will be competing with ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’, ‘Wonder Woman’ and several other effects-laden blockbusters. — AFP