WonderCon 2014: Fox bets big on dystopia with ‘Apes,’ ‘Maze Runner’

April 19, 2014 | 11:00 p.m.

Twentieth Century Fox is trading heavy on dystopia this summer. During its panel Saturday at WonderCon, the studio presented three not-so-optimistic views of the future with “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” “The Maze Runner” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”

“Dawn” is intended to be a bridge between the studio’s surprise hit “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and the 1968 classic “Planet of the Apes.” Director Matt Reeves was joined onstage by cast members Keri Russell, Gary Oldman and Andy Serkis, who returned as the intelligent ape, Ceasar, from the previous film.

The new movie, which is set to open July 11, picks up years after the end of “Rise,” which concluded with a lethal virus wiping out most of the population. Reeves said the first third of the new film and the opening of the trailer he previewed depicted a world void of pesky humans. But they still exist, and eventually Caesar and his developing ape society must confront them.

“We didn’t want there to be any villains,” Reeves explained. “The way you emotionally rooted for Caesar in ‘Rise,’ we needed to feel that way for all the characters.”

“Rise” was notable for its stunning use of performance capture and for Serkis’ uncanny turn as a realistic ape. For the sequel, Reeves said, the challenge was taking a visual effects technique that had been perfected mostly on soundstages and applying it out in the real world.

“We wanted to take that reality further,” Reeves said. “We shot in crazy conditions in the woods and the rain. If the people who rented us the cameras knew the conditions we took them into, they probably wouldn’t let us have the cameras again.”

“The Maze Runner” is a young adult novel adaptation in which attractive young people are put to a mysterious and brutal test. But instead of a strong heroine in the lead as in “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent,” “Maze Runner” features a whole roster of boys and young men, notably Dylan O’Brien of “Teen Wolf” fame and Will Poulter. O’Brien and Poulter joined director Wes Ball and James Dashner, the author of the novel that inspired the September release, onstage.

O’Brien admitted that despite the film’s title and the amount of running he did in the trailer, he was never once asked to run as part of the audition process.

“I look a little spastic, but we used it anyway,” he said.

Ball, who is making his feature directing debut with “Maze Runner” after a career in visual effects, told the audience: “At the risk of sounding cheesy, the biggest special effects are the emotional performances our cast gives.”

Check out coverage of the WonderCon “X-Men: Days of Future Past” presentation here.

— Patrick Kevin Day


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One Response to WonderCon 2014: Fox bets big on dystopia with ‘Apes,’ ‘Maze Runner’

  1. Kevin says:

    “The Maze Runner is a young adult novel adaptation in which attractive young people…" Yes, point out 'attractive' people when it's a YA movie, but not for any other movie ever. Nice job.

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