"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Rise of the Planet of the Apes: The Art of the Films" Book Review
Written by Sharon Gosling and Adam Newell
Interviews by Matt Hurwitz
2014, 176 Pages, Reference
Book released on July 8th, 2014
You can't keep a good ape down. After the successful relaunch of Planet of the Apes with 2011's Rise, Fox produced a sequel (Dawn) and spawned a number of tie-ins in other mediums including comics, novels, and art books. One such example is The Art of the Films, published by Titan Books. The oversized hardcover offers some in-depth insights into the production of both movies and is a dream come true for any hardcore POTA fan.
When I first heard of this book, I figured it would be a glorified picture book; something that would be nice to have on the coffee table, but not much more. I could not be more wrong. If you find yourself digging through all of the special features on a DVD or Blu-ray, this is the book for you. The Art of the Films goes into great detail on the making of both movies from concept art through final images, with explanations from authors Sharon Gosling and Adam Newell. Interviews with key members of the cast and crew, including Andy Serkis (who plays Caesar in both films), were conducted by Matt Hurtwitz and merged seamlessly with the text.
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What really shines through in this book is how advanced the technology was during the production. Motion capture was used for other films but never to this extent and certainly not with the other actors. Traditionally the “mo-cap” actors were kept separate, filming in a bunker somewhere and later added in during post-production. Meanwhile, the regular actors were forced to act against a tennis ball or some other inanimate object for sight reference. Rise of the Planet of the Apes was the first flick that had the mo-cap actors filming with the live-action folks. Weta Digital created all-new technology to allow for the shooting and then advanced it further for Dawn. All this for a couple monkey movies.
As many of the images are behind-the-scenes, shot during the production of the films, you get to see the mo-cap actors in action on set. This can result in some fun pictures, such as James Franco holding Andy Serkis' hand at the vet. Most scenes were actually shot four times to provide the editors and digital artists with enough footage to put everything together. A scene was first filmed regularly with all actors, then once without the mo-cap actors, then again without anyone there to provide backgrounds, then once more with two large balls in place of the actors to see how light reflects within that spot.
The directors, writers, and production designers go into great detail about the setup of each set, providing reasons for almost everything that ended up on the screen. It's interesting to see how close the concept art is to the final product. This is especially cool for the images from Dawn, showing how nature has begun taking over the cities and the ape kingdom.
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If you have not seen either film, there are some spoilers throughout the book. The first half of each segment is pretty good at avoiding key details of the plot, but as it gets to different key scenes, more and more is revealed. That's a great excuse to go out and see the flicks anyway. Go do that and then enjoy this book.
The Art of the Films for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the perfect companion to the movies. If you're a fan of the franchise, you'll love this. Even if you're just a film fan in general, you'll find a lot to enjoy as this goes into great detail about the overall making of a motion capture movie. This is the kind of thing they can provide to aspiring design students.
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