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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Visit to the Planet of the Apes

Perhaps it would be best to preface this article with a little bit of background information.  Two years ago, I saw a little movie called Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  It took quite a bit of coaxing to get me to see the film in the first place.  The main reason for this being I have never been a big fan of the Planet of the Apes series.  I know, it is a bit odd knowing how much of a nerd I am.  But, out of all of the nerd franchises out there which I am a fan of, two which I have never been able to latch on to are Star Trek  and Planet of the Apes.  To be honest, I am not sure why I never grabbed on to Apes as so many nerds, including my father, have, but something about it never really captured my interest.  Much like J.J. Abrams was able to change my mind about Star Trek in 2009, in 2011, my mind was changed about another franchise too when my brother told me I really needed to go see Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  I absolutely adored the film.  Not only did the movie have a solid script with fantastic performances (particularly from Andy Serkis), but it also featured quite possibly the best use of motion capture technology we had seen in a film by that point or since; finally, I was a fan of Planet of the Apes. Flash forward almost two years and I am eagerly anticipating next year's follow up to Rise titled Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.  This is going to be a bit of a different article here on Geek Rex as I had a new experience in my life as a movie fan that I felt worth sharing with the rest of you.  After the jump, take a peek at my very brief time visiting the Planet of the Apes.

For the past few days, I have been on a fantastic trip to New Orleans.  When most people go to the Big Easy, they take the time to enjoy the typical touristy pleasures of the city: the sights, the jazz, the beignets, and the copious amounts of alcohol.  I had just been to NOLA a year and a half ago to see Alabama blowout LSU in the NCAA National Football Championship (Roll Tide), but I could not wait to come back.  As many families are inclined to do when in an historic place, my family took part in one of New Orleans' many bus tours.  On this tour, our guide mentioned in passing that the city had become a prime shooting location for many films after undergoing some beautification after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  I thought nothing of this remark as the South is starting to grow in popularity as a place for Hollywood to film due to the generous tax credits production companies get for filming here.  As he finished his spiel about movies filming here, our tour guide just so happened to mention that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes would be filming in New Orleans this summer.  I got a bit excited to hear this due to my aforementioned love of Rise, but thought nothing of it as I have never had the privilege of seeing a live film set before, mostly due to my growing up in Alabama and having never been to prime shooting locales like L.A. or Toronto.  With that in mind, I shrugged off the idea of Planet of the Apes filming in the city I was vacationing as nothing more than an interesting factoid.  How little I knew then.

On that same day, my family was ready to leave New Orleans later that afternoon.  While it is true that most come to a city like New Orleans for the nightlife, my family had been up since the wee hours of the morning and we were exhausted.  Upon trying to drive down the busy French Quarter streets, our GPS was giving us very odd directions back to the Interstate which involved taking a lot of side roads.  Eventually, against the wishes of our GPS, we had to diverge on to the main roads due to our current path being blocked.  As we made our detour, my dad noticed that the section of the city which was blocked off looked a lot like a jungle.  Hearing this, I immediately knew we had most likely passed the set I assumed I would never see.  So, naturally, as we now knew the location where Dawn of the Planet of the Apes would be filming, we just had to check it out.  The next day, after a brief stint at a family reunion, we made our trek out to the filming location to see if we could snag some pictures.  

Currently, Dawn will be filming in what is known as the Business District of New Orleans.  To put things in easier to understand terms, the shoot will be taking place closer to the Superdome than the French Quarter.  Below you will find some of the pictures I took of the set.  As this greatly excited my dad and I to find this location, we made sure to walk around the entire 3 block set to get every angle possible.  With these pictures I have included light speculation as to what these locations may mean for the 2014 film.  Before these pictures were taken, our only image from Dawn was the above picture of Andy Serkis riding a horse.  Thus, I decided it would be worth your time to see these as it is truly our first glimpse at how this film is going to look.  So, without further ado,  here are some pretty awesome pictures from the upcoming film.  Feel free to click on any of the images for a closer look.

First view I saw of the set.  You will notice that all of the buildings have false fronts on them.  More on this later.

The official description of Dawn states that the film takes place over a decade after its predecessor, which accounts for the amount of foliage.

Different angle from a different street.  More examples of the false fronts.  The small tower peeking over the plants says San Francisco which confirms that, despite the New Orleans shoot, the movie will take place in San Francisco again.

Bus crushed by a billboard.  Unclear at this time if this was caused by the apes, but, considering Rise had a gorilla jumping onto a helicopter, I would not find it hard to believe if Caesar and the gang were responsible.

Closer look at one of the false fronts reveals a bamboo hut of some sort sticking out of one of the buildings.  Could this be where Caesar lives?  We'll find out this time next year!

Another false front.  Upon zooming into this interesting looking building with my dad's camera, we were able to see the circle contains the words "Federal Reserve Bank San Francisco".  After performing a quick Google search, here is the actual Federal Reserve building front in San Francisco for comparison:

Perhaps this is a clue as to what area of the city at least part of the film will take place in.

This is yet another angle of the set.  Not only do we get a glimpse of a San Francisco cable car (one of many on the set), but I feel this may be a big clue about this location for the film.  The bridge structure in the background could very likely be an entrance of sorts to where many of the apes (or humans) may be living.  As we saw in Rise, Caesar feels at home in the woods, so could this actually be the last remaining human encampment on Earth?  More on this in just a second.

On the next day, we scoped out the fourth and final angle we could get of the set.  The following pictures detail that angle while also giving just a few more clues to the film itself.

Here is the most notable image from the set: a set of posters with the words "Human Nation" on them, covered in graffiti of an ape skull with a bio-hazard symbol in the middle.  As other sites have speculated, the Human Nation could very well be indicative of the humans left after the virus broke out at the end of Rise.  While it is unclear who is responsible for the graffiti, the bio-hazard symbol may indicate this was done by the remaining humans.  The film's description indicates a struggle with some of the remaining humans will be the centerpiece of the movie.

Another San Francisco cable car, though this one appears to be in better shape.  Don't worry about the hoses and orange cones, no filming was taking place on the day these were taken (Sunday, May 26).  These hoses were simply there to, obviously, water the plants used on set.

One more look at the "Human Nation" signs and the graffiti.

So there you have it.  Those are most of the pictures I took while scoping out the set (any unused photos were deemed unnecessary).  I know this may not seem like a very cool experience to many (I did not see any movie stars aside from director Matt Reeves), but I felt this would be a journey worth your time as it provides a very close glimpse at the film...or at least as close as the public was allowed to get.  As many of the shots probably indicate, it seemed that the set was not completely ready for filming just yet.  We were informed that the production company would be using this particular set until the end of June, so it is very likely any actual shooting has yet to take place.  So, if you are itching to get a closer glimpse at some of these sets or maybe see some actual filming take place, get yourself down to New Orleans before June 25.  

Though I feel that these pictures reveal a lot more than we knew about Dawn going in, there are still a lot of pieces to fit into this puzzle.  It is very obvious some post-production work will be taking place so that New Orleans looks exactly like San Francisco.  As it may still be a few months before we get a trailer for this movie, consider this your best glimpse at the film until then.  While this may not seem like the most fascinating experience of all time, I greatly enjoyed being able to see my first film set.  I have been a huge fan of movies my entire life so I suppose this would be one more check mark on my movie fan bucket list.  Personally, after seeing this set in person, I am confident in saying that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is now my most anticipated summer film of 2014.

What about you?  Did these pictures make you more or less excited for the movie?  Will you be seeing the film when it comes out?  Tell us in the comments below!  For more on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes as well as all things geek, keep your eyes here on Geek Rex!

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