What Now For the Planet of the Apes Franchise?

In the wake of the success of Rupert Wyatt’s Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, Rob Girvan asks “where next” for the anthropological franchise. 

It is a great feeling to finally be able to walk out of the cinema during this summer season and be totally satisfied by a blockbuster. Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes left me feeling elated. Here is a film that didn’t cost the budget of a small nation, and was based on character and emotion. In my opinion it is by far the strongest blockbuster of the summer.

Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes has done very well in its first two weeks of release. It remains top of the US box office, with only a 49% fall in ticket sales. Blockbusters usually fall about 60% in the second weekend. This is a clear sign of positive word of mouth. The film is liked. Made for under $100 million, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes is primed for a sequel.

Where the franchise goes next will be interesting, and here are a few ideas for what form the sequel could take. Please be aware that from this point on there will be spoilers about the film, so if you haven’t seen it yet, please do. It is great.

At the end of Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes we see that that mankind has much bigger problems on its hands, than a few hundred apes which have escaped into the wild. A virus is spreading across the globe, with no cure in sight.

As the hubris of humanity comes back to bite them in the ass, Caesar and his ape colony are hiding out, and clearly developing intelligence at a rapid rate, even gaining the power of speech.

We are also told that the spaceship Icarus and her crew, on a mission to explore Mars, have gone missing.

With these strands set up, I can see the franchise going one of three ways. –

One: A Remake of Battle For The Planet Of The Apes

Battle For The Planet Of The Apes is agreed to be by most Planet Of The Apes fans as being the most disappointing entry in the series. While there are some nice ideas in the film, the makeup and budget simply are not there to do justice to the story.

Further to this, the darkness which enveloped Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes, was neutered. The first script for Battle For The… was very dark, telling the story of how the apes, under the command of Caesar began to enslave mankind. In one memorable scene, he orders his ape doctors to start operating on humans, rendering them mute. It was a far stronger tie into Planet of the Apes.

However, due to the negative reaction to Conquest Of The…, the final entry in the series was reformatted to make Caesar the hero, and suggest that a new timeline had been created where ape and human co-existed in harmony.

A remake of Battle For The… would be an interesting manner in which to take the rebooted franchise. Imagine that mankind has been all but destroyed. Small colonies of people have survived by escaping into the woodlands.

A hostile, defeated human colony versus the apes could have potential, especially if Caesar continued to try and broker for peace.  But of course this wouldn’t work, and the hostility which we saw hints of in Rise Of The…, would become solidified.

This would allow an even stronger tie into the rebooted series and the 1968 film, while retaining the idea that the apes are still the heroes. One of the great parts about Rise Of The… is that we are fully on the side of Caesar, and it would be wise to keep that thread going for subsequent films.

Two: A Direct Remake of The Planet of the Apes

Watching Rise Of The…, I was excited to revisit the original film. It still holds up to this day, and is much more cerebral than it is sometimes given credit for. It is essentially a debate between a liberal scientist and a creationist with a few, brief action scenes.

Rise Of The… has hints towards the future, most notably when Maurice the orang-utan comments that “Apes are stupid”, setting up the intellectual dominance of that species of ape in the far flung future. We also see, by the end, that Caesar has begun to stand upright, and has formed speech. While the rest of the colony has some way to go in this regard, who wouldn’t want to see what Ape society would look like thousands of years in the future?

Using the WETA tech to bring to life a fully formed ape culture is so utterly tempting. And now it has been proven that they can create honest to god characters using this tech, seeing Zaius and the rest of the gang is an exciting prospect.

There is one clear problem with this. While we would have sympathetic characters in Cornelius and Zira, the audience made its connection to Caesar. Losing him, would, I believe be unwise.

There is one idea which I think has been set up perfectly for this reboot, which could involve Caesar, and still present an interesting concept….

Three: An Adaptation of the Book

How many of you have ever read La Planète des singes, the book on which Planet of the Apes was based, written by Pierre Boulle?

Would it surprise you to learn that in the original book Ape society used advanced technology, wore clothes and lived in human cities? In the movies, the apes live in more simplistic community, riding horses and having basic knowledge of science.

In the book, they can fly planes, drive cars, and use complex machines. Rise Of The… perfectly sets up a direct adaptation of the book.

The virus, killing off mankind, would leave all the buildings, cars and infrastructure in place. It would not be a massive leap to then have the Apes, now super advanced, to take over these cities and rebuild.

The Icarus crew, would then only have to be trapped in space for a few years, say even half a decade, before coming home and finding a world where humans are either wiped out, or living by a thread.

While the concepts in the book are the same as those in the 1968 film, the idea of seeing the monkeys in charge of our world, in our time, has an appeal. The ending of Burton’s film hinted at this idea, but was undercut by not making any sense. Let’s see it done properly.

These are only a few ideas of the next steps that the series could take, and that in all likelihood 20th Century Fox will go a completely different direction. No matter where the series goes next, I hope they continue to take risks and play with big ideas.

So, what do readers think is the best direction for the series? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

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3 Comments

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  1. Love the idea of the adaptation of the book. Fitting in with the Icarus crew returning is an appetite-whetting prospect.

    I want to see the film again now, to look out for hints and clues.

  2. I too have been wondering where 20th Century Fox might take the franchise with another film. Given their ability to produce a great film that updates the mythology of the source material while also respecting the prior films, I have great hopes for the possibilities. Given the potential for the motion-capture CGI I’d like to see them take a stab at a faithful adaptation Boulle’s book with an advanced ape civilization. Perhaps audiences are ready for an even more intelligent science fiction film that builds upon some of the releases of the last few years.

  3. I’ll add another vote for adapting the book. While I do love the continuity we have now – Rise being the “original” origin story and Conquest being a divergent timeline origin caused by the time travel of Escape – trying to preserve that is far too limiting for any future entries. Wyatt has said in interviews that he wants a Full Metal Jacket style story of war, so maybe they will try to create another intermediary episode that takes some cues from Battle, but I’d rather see the filmmakers push forward with their own universe instead of constantly tying back to the old one, which could stale their creativity like it did with the uneven Superman Returns. A fresh and more faithful adaptation of the book would be a good place to go. As you pointed out, it works as a natural extension of what they’ve already laid in place, and it would be a nice tribute to the original novel to expose people to what the story was originally like before the films came along.

    Great piece, Rob.

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