Matt Reeves’ Long-Term Vision For The Planet Of The Apes Franchise

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Director Matt Reeves’ War for the Planet of the Apes completes one of the most compelling and exciting movie trilogies of all-time. However, fans are hoping that this isn’t the end for the franchise. Though this latest chapter closes a number of ongoing plot threads, the overall success of these films almost certainly warrants additional sequels. The big question is: what direction should the franchise travel? Should they look to its cinematic origins or chart a new future? The current Apes trilogy deviates significantly from the original films, which began with Rod Serling’s 1968 adaptation of Pierre Boulle’s classic novel. There were four sequels to the original Planet of the Apes — each embarked on wildly different narratives and themes, such as mutants, mind control, time travel, slavery, religion, and the Cold War. Should any of these legacy films be looked upon for inspiration?

A key point to consider, this current Planet of the Apes trilogy isn’t a reboot of the original films, it’s actually a prequel (kind of)… Let’s just say that the timeline of the original five films was all over the place and involved some convenient, if not questionable, time travel (note: we’re omitting Tim Burton’s awful Apes film from the timeline). The idea that the current films are prequels might catch some fans and casual movie-goers off-guard; I myself felt this new trilogy was more reboot than prequel. Fandango recently interviewed Reeves, who’s about to get rolling on the next Batman movie, to provide some insight and share his vision for the franchise’s future:

“Well, for me the idea of these stories is that they’re leading on a trajectory toward the originals. What I’m interested in, and what I’m excited about, is the journey toward them; because the story no longer is about what happens — we know what happens — it becomes Planet of the Apes. But the world that’s described in each film is different from the world that we know from the ’68 film, and it becomes an opportunity to explain how we get there, and that becomes an opportunity to hold a mirror up to human nature. And really, when we’re looking at this ape nature, we’re looking at ourselves as reflected in these apes, that’s why we identify with them”

So Reeves pretty clearly believes the current trilogy is canon and fits into the wacky timeline of the original five films. The events in these latest films does kind of exist in a bubble, and it’s hard to know how they’re affecting the world beyond the American West Coast. Reeves recognizes the flaw, but wants to capitalize on it as an opportunity:

“When [co-writer] Mark [Bomback] and I came up with the idea for Bad Ape (Bad Ape is that Dobby-like ape from the trailers) in War, that was to imply the idea that there would be apes out there in the world that Caesar and his apes knew nothing of, and that they wouldn’t have had the benefit of Caesar’s leadership and the values that he had instilled in his community. “

This is a very cool idea. Caesar’s community is roughly isolated to Northern California, so it’s anyone’s guess what’s happening in New York, or London, or Tokyo. Unless the apes reinvent the Internet, or decide to migrate, they’re probably going to remain isolated. However, if Reeves is correct and the current Apes trilogy fits into the original film’s timeline, we already know that New York has fallen to the Apes, and might conclude that the whole world has met a similar fate.

Based on the above clip (and wow, can Heston chew some scenery), there’s clearly a lot of time elapsed between the 1968 film and the current trilogy. Reeves kind of provides an explanation:

“Future conflicts in this kind of epic journey [may] take us toward the ’68 movie without necessarily ever getting there [and] could be about conflicts between apes, not just conflicts between humans and apes. And so, to me there are many more exciting stories to be told, and I would love to tell those stories.”

OK, so that’s really not an explanation at all. It is clear, however, that there are an unlimited number of stories that could be told between War for the Planet of the Apes and the original Planet of the Apes. Personally, I’d love to see the next film set in Asia, the Middle East, or some other non-western culture, to see how those particular human-ape conflicts evolved. Where do you want future iterations of the Planet of the Apes franchise to go? Let us know in the comments down below! War for the Planet of the Apes hits theaters on July 14, 2017.

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David Kozlowski

David Kozlowski is a writer, podcaster, and visual artist. A U.S. Army veteran, David worked 20 years in the videogame industry and is a graduate of Arizona State University's Film and Media Studies.

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