WonderCon: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes director and cast talk survival of the fittest

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Apr 21, 2014, 4:34 PM EDT (Updated)

Saturday, the cast and crew of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes descended upon Anaheim, Calif., for WonderCon 2014. Director Matt Reeves and stars Andy Serkis, Keri Russell and Gary Oldman participated in a press conference in support of their new film. Reeves and Oldman revealed some interesting tidbits about the evolution of its story and how Dawn doesn't play into the "us against them" mentality. There are no distinct heroes or villains. 

"We all know it doesn't become planet of the humans and the apes," Reeves said. "The thing that was really important to me was that we carry forward the apes in an emotional way that you could relate to, and that we take the humans [in a way that was really different from Rise] and depict them in a way where they're not villains either. There are no villains in our story. It's all about survival and trying to find a way to master our nature and the impulses within us."

The story structure of the Apes franchise is a lot different than most. Having a set outcome allowed Reeves to explore every facet of the society's origin.

"I had a screenwriting instructor who I loved many years ago, who talked to me about stories. He said, 'There are the kind of stories that are about the what, then there are the stories that are about the why.' If you already know what happened, then it becomes about the why, and the why is about psychology and about character," Reeves explained. When I got involved, they'd actually jumped farther down the line, closer to Planet of the Apes than I ever wanted to. I thought I was not going to do this movie. I thought, 'Oh, that's what you guys want to do, 'cause I think you should start earlier. There's a long and interesting road that's all about these people and how they're effected in this situation. The idea would be that the next phase of this story would be how those lives continue in this struggle."

As we mentioned earlier, humans and apes aren't necessarily at each other's throats. It's mainly because they have no idea that the other half exists. Star Gary Oldman explained that they've been living very separate lives.

"Initially, we don't know that there are apes there. This community has survived the flu, the epidemic, which has wiped out a huge part of the world. We believe that the military has done their job and that they've wiped out the apes. The thing is, we have food, we have water but the currency in the movie for want of a better word is electricty. That's the currency," Oldman declared. "We need that to communicate to the outside world to actually find out if there is anyone out there. Or how many are out there? Who is out there? We believe for all intents and purposes that we could be the only survivors. Then of course we discover -- cut to a community of apes doing their thing with their family and they think we've all been wiped out. Then of course, we discover each other."

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is really a tale of two families. But one is on its way up, while the other's heading down.

According to Reeves, "There's a human family and there's an ape family. That's what the Colony is. That's the human family. The difference is that the apes, they are on the ascendency. The idea is we start in this ape world and we're following their development. In a way it almost mirrors our own sort of tribal development. You see language as it's coming into being. You're seeing all of the bonds that have been formed and the next generation that's coming and the civilation that they're building. They're really on the way up."

"But the humans, the Colony, they have just had the most massive sort of tragedy happen to them. They are a family trying to heal itself. So these two families have to find some way to survive and the stakes are all about the things that they care about. There's a question for the humans deeply, about what it is that they've lost. This story for the humans is, 'What it took to still be here and what was lost along the way. What's worth fighting for at this point?'"

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes opens in theaters July 11.

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