Six years will have passed since Andy Serkis first played the genetically-altered ape Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, by the time that War for the Planet of the Apes – the third installment in the rebooted Planet of the Apes series – reaches theaters in 2017. Serkis has continued to hone his motion-capture acting craft in the franchise and with other roles, such as that of Supreme Leader Snoke in the Star Wars movies. Meanwhile, Serkis’ big screen counterpart has evolved from being an innocent and wide-eyed ape raised to live among humans – to being a fierce warrior, ready and willing to go to war with humankind (as footage shown from War to date has illustrated).
There have been changes behind the scenes on the current Planet of the Apes movies – with Matt Reeves taking over as director (from Rupert Wyatt) on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and then returning for War – and the human players in Caesar’s story have similarly been switched out, over the course of the first three chapters. These films have also shown several of the same ape characters (Caesar, Rocket and Maurice being among them) aging and evolving with each respective installment. The Planet of the Apes movie have been akin to the Harry Potter films for characters like Caesar, in this respect.
On the set of War for the Planet of the Apes, Serkis noted as much and even made a fitting comparison between the rebooted Planet of the Apes films and Richard Linklater’s Oscar-winning Boyhood:
It’s interesting, because we were looking at some pictures the other day, actually, of some photos of [Rise of the Planet of the Apes] and how much younger we all looked. And how our bodies looked buff and trim. And now we’re all sort of bent and twisted out of shape. It’s kind of like Boyhood in the jungle. It’s sort of apehood, really. We’ve now come together all these times and Rocket, as a character, his arc and his story. There are moments that resonate back to the origin. There are great moments that we’ve been able to play up there where it bounces right back to the beginning…
Choreographer/movement specialist and mo-cap performer, Terry Notary (who plays Rocket in the Planet of the Apes movies) echoed Serkis’ observation during the War for the Planet of the Apes press set visit, adding that “The journey has been real for us, as well. We’re carrying the journey of all three movies with us and it’s influencing our characters, I think.” The Harry Potter series and Boyhood comparisons become all the more appropriate when seen in this light, as those films similarly featured a core group of actors growing older together – either over the course of multiple movies (with Harry Potter) or by making a single film over the course of twelve years (on Boyhood) – at the same time as their onscreen counterparts were changed by the passage of time and life.
Much like Boyhood concluded with its protagonist (Mason) reaching adulthood and Harry Potter concluded with Harry fulfilling his destiny to become “The Chosen One”, War for the Planet of the Apes sees Caesar go from being a leader among Ape-kind to becoming an “ape Moses” who will one day be a seminal figure in Ape history. It was always a given that Caesar would evolve into an almost mythical figure one day – as the current Apes films are technically a prequel series to the original 1968 Planet of the Apes movie. Nevertheless, like Mason and Harry Potter before him, the most interesting part of Caesar’s story has always been his journey, not his final destination.