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From Humans to Apes: History of an evolution

The third and climactic chapter of the critically acclaimed blockbuster trilogy takes us into a world boiling over with divisions and rage, as the ape vs. human battle for control of the world careens towards the ultimate winner-takes-all decision.

Breathless action, big ideas and potent storytelling combine as War for the Planet of the Apes pushes the series into new realms of legend-building as it explores the values that forge a civilization. It all comes to life driven by the most complex and intense performance by Andy Serkis yet as the majestic Caesar, ground-breaking visual effects from Weta Digital and a very long and intense cinematic universe started with a great classic in 1968.

How did we get so far? And most important, how did we end up liking the apes more than our fellow humans? Let’s check this fascinating reverse evolution...

Evolution of a character: Hail, Caesar!

At the core of 'The War for The Planet of the Apes' is the story not only of the coming of the decisive battle between the rapidly rising apes and desperately declining humans, but also of a dark night in the soul of the apes’ noble leader Caesar.  The evolution of the character is totally surprising because no one would think Caesar was capable of anything approaching hatred or fully breaking ties with humanity.  It’s terrifying for everyone around him, because Caesar has always been the moral centre of the group. And if Caesar spins out of control morally, what happens to the entire society?

Reprising the role for which he has drawn global acclaim, Andy Serkis takes the regal Caesar into the riskiest, most psychologically nuanced zones we have seen.  He says that taking Caesar into a personal maelstrom in this film “has been the most rewarding acting challenge in my life.”

In the first film, there was dawning of language and it was about exploring how the apes dealt with the beginning of their evolution. In the second film, Caesar is more as a human and he started to use more intricate linguistics, expressing himself intellectually. Serkis explains that  “Now, Caesar can speak fluently which changes how he approaches things, how he thinks of himself and others.  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”.  The Ape became a man.

Evolution of special effects: Upping performance capture

Weta Digital has continued to evolve their capture technology over the three films to ensure no matter where the story goes, the performance of the actors onset is always recorded. Performance capture technology has evolved, much like the apes, since shooting Rise.  Real-time facial animation tools now allow artists to execute complex and precise facial animation decisions in the moment, allowing them to recreate any expression and honour the fidelity of the actor’s performance – and for hundreds of characters in a scene.  

'War for the Planet of the Apes' features a dozen key ape characters, more than in the previous films, and they also are speaking with more sophistication.  The film marks another first for performance capture: the first time it has been used in extreme weather, including falling snow, making possible to interact performance capture with any environment.

What’s been fun is that a huge number of special effects people got into their jobs because of the original Planet of the Apes movie, thought it was done with makeup and costumes, because it was so imaginative – and now they are really pushing the state of the art of CG animation to created images such as ape on horseback in the snow.   

The development of leading-edge performance capture technology – that can record even the tiniest nuances of movement, gesture and emotion to animated characters via human actors , has led to the creation of some of motion pictures’ most memorable personalities, including the apes seen in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Evolution of a classic: from the sixties to the new millennium

Planet of the Apes (1968)

Why is it great?  

Sci-fi genre and make-up design in films reached new levels. And the film helped defining the world ‘cliffhanger’ in cinema history. 

Who is in it? 

Apes:  Zira (Kim Hunter), Cornelius (Roddy MacDonald), Zeius (Maurice Evans). 

Humans: George Taylor (Charlton Heston), Nova (Linda Harrison), John Landon (Robert Gunner).


Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

Why is it great?

Like every sequel following a huge success, it's legacy is laying the right elements for the ongoing story.

Who is in it?

Apes:  Cornelius, Zira, Zaius, Ursus (James Gregory).

Humans: George Taylor, Nova, John Brent (James Franciscus),  Mendez  XXVI (Paul Richards).


Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)

Why is it great?

The film explores new territories bringing to the saga time travel, new characters and a mix of drama and comedy. 

Who is in it?

Apes:  Cornelius, Zira, Milo (Sal Mineo).

Humans: Lewis Dixon (Brandon Dillman), Stephanie Branton (Natalie Trund), Armando (Ricardo Montalban).

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)

Why is it great?

A new time line that explains the end of humanity and beginning of the apes' rebellion starts here. And the rise of Caesar makes everything more exciting. 

Who is in it?

Apes:  Caesar (Roddy Macdonald), Virgil (Paul Williams), Lisa (Natalie Trundy).

Humans: Armando, Brek (Don Murray), Macdonald (Austin Stoker).

Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)

Why is it great?

The final chapter closes the circle and we finally see the born of the Planet of the Apes.

Who is in it?

Apes:  Caesar, Virgil, Lisa.

Humans:  Macdonald,  Kolp (Severn Darden), Abe (Noah Keen).


Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

Why is it great?

Fourty-three years after the first film,  a new trilogy brings back the Planet of the Apes with a new time line focused on the story of Caesar played by legendary Andy Serkins. 

Who is in it?

Apes: Caesar (Andy Serkins) , Birght Eyes (Terry Notary), Koba (Toby Kebell). 

Humans:  Will Rodman (James Franco),  Caroline Aranha (Freida Pinto)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Why is it great?

The development of Caesar as anguished character and grat special effects make the film not only a perfect action/sci-fi but also an intriguing existential drama.

Who is in it?

Apes:  Caesar, Koba, Maurice (Karin Konoval)

Humans:  Malcolm (Jason Clarke), Ellie (Keri Russell), Dreyfus (Gary Oldman). 

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)


The final chapter of the trilogy takes us to the ultimate war which will decide what species can rule the planet! Find out more in the next section below....




Evolution of the war: the last chapter

'War for the Planet of the Apes' ends the new trilogy started in 2011 putting together all the pieces of a puzzle made of epic battles, existential dilemmas and sci-fi mythology.  What we’ll witness is the dawn of a civilization and what we see happening now will be part of a future legends all the apes will know for all time, as Caesar attempts to deliver his people to a new world.  

All of human history has led to the ‘War For The Planet Of The Apes’, as Caesar’s clan of apes begins a battle to determine the fate of their species. 
Their greatest threat yet has emerged in the form of a ruthless human Colonel, committed to ensuring the survival of the human race at any cost. Caesar wanted peace, but in the face of an army determined to wipe out all the apes, he’ll be pushed to his limits to protect his people.

Why is it going to be great?

It's one of the biggest summer's blockbuster and it's the highest-rated film in the already highly rated Planet of the Apes trilogy. Also, it has the power to speak to hardcore fans and people who don't know much about this saga at the same time, boosting the curiosity for the last ones and get lost into the Apes' cinematic universe.

Who is in it?

Apes:  Caesar (Andy Serkins),  Bad Ape (Steve Zahn),  Luca (Michael Adamthwaite).

Humans:  The Colonel (Woody Harrelson), Nova  (Amiah Miller).