Patrick Lewis/Starpix
Shirley Li
October 07, 2016 AT 03:27 PM EDT

Judging by a trailer, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and seven minutes of footage of the upcoming War for the Planet of the Apes shown at New York Comic-Con, the battle between humans and apes is about to reach a boiling point.

In a panel hosted by EW’s Kevin P. Sullivan, director Matt Reeves (who helmed the second installment in the franchise, 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), producer Dylan Clark, and star Andy Serkis spoke of the turmoil facing Caesar both inside and out. Taking place two years after the events of Dawn, the sequel will follow a darker Caesar, who’s still deeply affected by his actions in the previous film, when he had to fight a member of his own kind, Koba (Toby Kebbell). He’ll venture on his own “mythic journey,” Reeves says. “Caesar understands exactly why Koba felt the way he did because he gets pushed to the extremes of war… The question is, will he be able to transcent the darkness inside of him?” Though the film stars a damaged Caesar, it won’t be looking inward. In fact, Clark adds, “It’s our biggest movie. It is a war but it is also taking Andy and Caesar on this journey that’s probably the biggest challenge to an actor.” 

Serkis agreed. “[The films have] taken Caesar on twists and turns to more darker, more nuanced, [to be] very reflective of the human condition,” he says. “Caesar is an empathetic character, but really where we take him in this movie is where that bleeds away, where he loses that… It’s the most emotionally draining part of his arc that I’ve played.” 

And it shows. The featurette explored how Serkis works with motion capture — Reeves later told the audience the actor “deserves an Academy Award” — and in an unrendered (or near-complete Weta CGI) scene shown to attendees (spoilers ahead!), Caesar clearly struggles between right and wrong when he and a group of apes arrive at a run-down hideout and encounter a man and a little girl. Though Caesar shoots down the man in cold blood and opposes orangutan Maurice’s (Karin Konoval) request to bring the girl with them instead of letting her die, he eventually reconsiders. 

It’s a small scene, but the trailer shown afterward promised bigger set pieces and plenty of scene-chewing by Woody Harrelson’s villainous Colonel. In the meantime, a teaser for the film can be seen below:

War for the Planet of the Apes arrives in theaters July 2017.

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