You may have seen the billboards promoting the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. It shows a severed Bay Bridge with an ape on a horse triumphantly waving a machine gun. The movie debuts next Friday, July 11. The billboard is, at best, misleading.
The apes to not destroy San Francisco and the Bay Bridge is not even seen in the film. When asked about it last weekend during a press event in San Francisco, the movie’s director Matt Reeves said that the film’s posters and billboards were drawn up by the marketing department.
For Bay Area residents, while we won’t see the Bay Bridge in the film, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes offers an extra bonus of being able to see recognizable places in San Francisco and Marin Counties decimated. But the apes didn't do it.
The film is a sequel to the runaway 2011 hit, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It takes place a decade after the events in the film that showed how the James Franco character created intelligent apes while trying to come up with a cure for Alzheimer's disease. But ten years later, most of the world’s population is wiped out by a simian flu that humans inadvertently unleashed in the laboratory.
In the latest apes film, San Francisco looks a little like New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. And there is a good reason for that. In the movie, California Street is prominently showcased as a place near where a colony of survivors are fortressed. It also is where most of the battle scenes take place between the apes and the humans. Most of those scenes were shot in parts of the New Orleans area that have not yet recovered from Katrina.
If you have seen the 2011 film, you will remember the San Francisco home where the Franco charter lived with his dad (John Lithgow) and the baby ape, Ceasar. That house is in in Vancouver. Reeves explained that that house was not available to the film production crew this time around. But as luck would have it, they found a house that looked very similar to that house in New Orleans, and they decided to use that house because it was naturally overgrown with weeds and other greenery that had grown into it after becoming abandoned..
The Golden Gate Bridge and Fort Point are prominently featured in the film. The Golden Gate Bridge is overgrown with weeds and is rusted but is still drive-able. The bridge’s towers give the “bad apes” in the movie a good vantage point of San Francisco. Fort Point is being used as an armory where the humans are stockpiling weapons and using as a staging area to practice maneuvers.
When a reporter asked about the apes destroying San Francisco in the film, Reeves corrected the questioner noting that it was the elements, not the apes that destroyed the city. Most of the buildings in the city were seen overgrown with greenery and falling apart as a result of lack of maintenance. The apes were seen only doing some collateral damage during fight scenes when they attack the colony of survivors in downtown San Francisco
San Francisco residents will recognize the One Market Plaza and the Federal Reserve Bank building in the movie. Most of the scenes in San Francisco take place in that part of downtown at the foot of Market Street and at the Golden Gate Bridge and Fort Point.
More than 85 percent of the film was shot in the forests of Vancouver and outside New Orleans. San Francisco City Hall was one of the few locations that was shot in location in the city. The scene shows the apes rampaging through City Hall. An ape questions another’s loyalty and drops him from close to the top of the dome to make an example out of him.
No filming took place at the Golden Gate bridge. The bridge is a computer generated image It is the same animation that was used in the 2011 film. By the way, all the apes were computer generated. The actors who portrayed the apes wore sensors on their face to aid the computer to generate facial expressions for the scenes. The horses in the scenes were real and Reeves noted that they proved at times the most difficult element in the film to control.
But if you are looking for that shot promised in the billboards and posters of the Bay Bridge destroyed, you will be looking a very long time. The Bay Area's workhorse bridge is not shown in the film and the movie does not show the apes destroying any bridges. The marketing department apparently made it up out of whole cloth.