On Thursday, 20th Century Fox showed journalists some sneak peek footage from the upcoming War for the Planet of the Apes. I got to see some brand new unreleased footage, hear some details from director Matt Reeves, and see the new trailer.

First things first, the trailer. In the third chapter of Fox’s Planet of the Apes franchise we follow Ceasar (Andy Serkis) on a journey to find the Colonel (Woody Harrelson) who's leading the human army. We get our first look at Harrelson’s Colonel covered in black war paint, then later pointing a gun to Ceasar’s head. There’s also some action in the forest leading up to a giant snowy battle between the apes and the humans. Here’s the full synopsis:

In War for the Planet of the Apes, the third chapter of the critically acclaimed blockbuster franchise, Caesar and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless Colonel. After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. As the journey finally brings them face to face, Caesar and the Colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both their species and the future of the planet.

Now to the exclusive footage – if you want some minor spoilers, keep reading! One of the clips, which was shown to audiences at San Diego Comic-Con this year, featured Caesar and his group of apes entering an abandoned village. There Caesar shoots and kills an armed man and Maurice (Karin Konoval) finds the man’s young daughter holed up inside the house. Taking pity on the young mute girl, Maurice takes her with them.

Reeves told the audience on Thursday that the new film opens two years into the battle following Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. He likened the film to Bridge on the River Kwai, adding that the story is set against the backdrop of a giant war movie that “becomes almost, for a period, like a Western.”

20th Century Fox

The second clip was the film's opening sequence, which follows human soldiers entering the forest and attacking an ape settlement. It breaks out into a full-on battle, and eventually Caesar arrives and captures the last surviving humans. Much of the visual effects were unfinished in the footage and I got a look at how Serkis and the other motion-capture actors created their characters. Reeves described that unlike the previous two films, this is the first time the mo-cap actors got to shoot their scenes on location for the bulk of the movie.

The third clip was the best and introduced Steve Zahn’s new character Bad Ape, a clumsy, high-energy ape with some awkward social skills. When a person in a winter coat steals one of the horses from Caeser’s crew, the gang of apes persue him across the Sierras up abandoned ski slopes (you get a glimpse of this in the trailer and below in a new photo).

20th Century Fox

They end up inside an old ski lodge where they realize the creature in the coat is actually an ape, and one who can talk. He calls himself Bad Ape, and explains he learned to speak from listening to the humans at the Sierra Zoo where he came from. Zahn’s Bad Ape is much more physically anxious than the other apes, having not been around his kind for years. He also has some quirky moments of humor that feel very in-line with Zahn’s goofy sensibility. When he reveals he knows the location of an abandoned military camp, Caesar asks him to take them there, setting up the rest of the film’s journey. Before the clip ends, Bad Ape hands the young mute girl a silver trinket that reads “Chevy Nova.”

Zahn and Reeves also appeared at the Fox Holiday Preview and spoke about the new clips. Zahn likened mo-cap work to his time doing experimental stage acting. “What I realized, and it was frightening,” Zahn said, “was that the challenges were the same challenges I had doing experimental theater in Boston. It had nothing to do with the technical.” Reeves added that every time he looks at the finished footage of Bad Ape, he can only see Zahn’s face.

If anything, the new trailer and clips reveal some pretty impressive visual effects. The details that bring the apes to life will certainly make you appreciate mo-cap performances more than usual, and it has me excited to see what's in store for the third film. Check out the new poster and two more new photos from War for the Planet of the Apes below, which hits theaters July 14, 2017.

20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox