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WonderCon 2014: 20th Century Fox Presentation Part 1: How To Train Your Dragon 2 and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

dawn_of_the_planet_of_the_apes_a_p-00120th Century Fox had the biggest block of time to work with on Saturday at WonderCon and they used it to deliver presentations for four of their upcoming, big budget movies, with one surprise look at another film as well.  Because of the expansive line-up of films presented, I figured it would be best to split this post in two, so for ‘Part 1’ I am focusing on How To Train Your Dragon 2 and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, arriving in June and July this summer.  As How To Train Your Dragon has many fans, this is a hotly anticipated animated sequel that is sure to be a big (possibly the biggest) hit this summer.  Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is coming off of much love received both from audiences and critics, who were surprised to be quite pleased by Rise of the Planet of the Apes back in 2011.  Continue on to read about the presentations for both films. Note: Updated with first 5 minutes of How To Train Your Dragon 2.

How To Train Your Dragon 2

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First up was How To Train Your Dragon 2, which had director Dean DeBlois and star Jay Baruchel present to share some footage from the upcoming film and talk about the series in general.  In terms of what the basics are for this film, the sequel takes place five years after the first and has a lot of focus on Hiccup becoming older and being faced with the notion that he will have to be leader of the people one day.  With that in mind, he is still more focused on inventing new gadgets to help the people, while also exploring more of the world and mapping it.  The film will also be exploring Hiccup’s origins, which apparently has some mystery to them, with regards to him being somewhat of an odd duck compared to the other residents of Berk.

This film will feature new characters to go along with the entire returning cast.  Cate Blanchett, Kit Harrington, and Djimon Hounsou join up with the voice cast that already includes Gerard Butler, Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, Craig Ferguson, and many others.  A big star of the first film was Toothless and the many dragons of course, which there will be plenty of in this upcoming sequel.  While I seem to be in the minority of people who liked the first film, but did not love it (though I look forward to rewatching it), I can certainly say that the flying and added 3D effect that went along with it should certainly be something spectacular to see in this upcoming film that looks to have plenty of action to go along with the humor and character-based nature of the story being told.

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DeBlois and Baruchel were psyched to be talking about a film such as this, given that it is a PG-animated film in the midst of the many PG-13, adult-skewing sci-fi films being shown off during this day and Baruchel, in particular, received some nice questions and adoration from fans for his choices to be involved in the How To Train Your Dragon tv series, along with mixing up being in films like This Is The End to appear in something like The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (underrated).  With all that said, the guys did have a clip to share, which was essentially the entire opening of the film.

From what was seen, the visuals are certainly appealing in a way that balances some neat physics and human designs with some more cartoony elements, just like the first film.  The characters are noticeably older in a way that makes the film feel like it has a story it wants to tell, surrounding the evolution of these characters.  We also get some great flying scenes, which are sure to look great in 3D as well, making it one of the few films that I am excited to see in that format.  Opening up this world is something I am excited for in general, as it has a lot of potential to really show off a new fantasy world that is somewhat unique, given the nature of the dragons in these films.  I am looking forward to seeing the rest of the film.

 How To Train Your Dragon 2 opens in theaters on June 13, 2014.

How To Train Your Dragon 2 Teaser Poster

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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Next up was the panel for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, a sequel I have personally been really excited for.  Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a film I had a strong positive feeling for, way before it finally arrived in the summer of 2011, and was pleased to see it become such a success, as I have been a fan of the Apes franchise for quite some time.  With where that film left off, Dawn has the kind of potential to be something truly amazing if it is done right and from what I have seen so far, it looks like we are on the right track.  The panelists included director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In), Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, and Andy Serkis, which was a pretty cool group in itself.

Reeves began by setting up where things were with the world of this film.  It takes place ten years after the events of ‘Rise‘ and is basically a mix of apocalyptic storytelling and an ape world creation movie.  The opening 20 minutes or so of the movie will apparently focus entirely on the apes and how Caesar has built up a new empire, becoming an elder statesman in the process.  Humans will then appear of course, which adds conflict to the film.  Reeves was very direct in saying that this was not a film about villains though.  While I am sure there will be antagonist forces that are not the ones you would want to see succeed, Reeves really wanted to emphasize that this film would be a story of survival and learning about whether or not apes and humans can coexist.  Now given that the film is leading up to what would eventually be purely Planet of the Apes, there is a bit of inevitability to where this can all go, but the way he described the film does leave me intrigued with how it will play out.

With that in mind, there was an extended clip, which provided a good look on what to expect from this film.  The crazy thing was that Reeves claimed the film still has work to be done on it in terms of the effects, which boggled my mind, given how great everything looked already.  This footage began with showing off the ape world, complete with some dialogue from Caesar, which had a grounded feel to it as far as talking apes go.  It certainly didn’t sound like the advanced and well-learned apes from the 60s film.  We got to see the environment and how it has changed in the time since the virus wiped out most of humanity and apes rule the land, or at least the Bay Area.  Humans then get involved, which pushed the momentum forward in terms of action and stakes being set.  Gary Oldman is clearly one fighting for humans purely and not coexistence.  Jason Clarke’s character is seemingly doing his best to keep things peaceful and hoping to work with Caesar to accomplish that.  Glimpses of battles were shown as well and the whole thing looked great in terms of visual effects.  The mood and atmosphere made up a lot of how to keep in mind the difficulty of shooting a film like this, which is so motion capture-heavy, so it certainly seemed impressive.

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Eventually the title popped up on screen, but a bonus scene followed what I assume is going to be turned into a new trailer.  The bonus scene featured an ape, likely Koba, walking up to two humans and acting like a friend to them.  The ape performed some tricks and buddied up with the two guys who initially had guns pointing at the ape, only to be persuaded by the ape’s friendly nature.  The tables then turned as the ape took one of the guns, toyed with it, and then shot one of the humans, with the scene ending on him pointing the gun at the other person.  It was an incredibly tense sequence with a great balance in tone that completely worked for me, as far as selling me even more on this upcoming feature.  If things go the right way, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes could be a huge breakout sequel in the way many of these properties breakout with their follow-ups.  Whether or not the darker take on the material will intrigue audiences is another story, but if it is entertaining in the right kind of way, this could be a well-liked film that paves the way for whatever is next in the Ape world.

Following the clip, there was some discussion about the humans in this film, given that two of them were on stage.  It was nice to hear Keri Russell talk about her experiences on set, as well as call out to Reeves, who originally directed her in many episodes of Felicity.  Then you have Gary Oldman, which is just awesome in general, given his film history.  A lot of the focus was on Andy Serkis, who of course provides motion capture and essence of Caesar.  He is not new to this type of work, but it helps that he is such a great personality for these types of places.  Serkis gives the fans what they want (Gollum impressions), while also providing some good answers to questions about bringing weight to the material he is given for these types of roles.  He also concluded the presentation by taking a video of the audience stating an ape mantra:  Home. Family. Future.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes opens on July 11, 2014

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Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com.  Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS4.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Video Game Player, Comic Book Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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