The world has changed since Caesar (Andy Serkis) was born. The critically-acclaimed Planet of the Apes prequel trilogy has seen human civilization fall and a race of intelligent apes rise – both as the result of a man-made virus called the Simian Flu. Though humanity wrought its own destruction, it was the apes who got the blame, and War for the Planet of the Apes sees Caesar struggling to escape a conflict with a species that isn’t willing to give up the planet quietly.
Director Matt Reeves returns to the franchise for this third entry in Caesar’s trilogy after previously directing Dawn for the Planet of the Apes, and War finds Caesar still haunted by the events of Dawn – in particular the moment when he was forced to kill one of his first friends, Koba (Toby Kebbell). As he finds himself facing off against the indefatigable military leader Colonel McCullough (Woody Harrelson), Caesar must decide what kind of ape he will be – and find a way for his species to survive.
Ahead of War for the Planet of the Apes‘ release, Screen Rant sat down with Reeves to discuss the challenges of wrapping up Caesar’s story, and the future of the franchise. Check out a video of the interview above, and a transcript below.
This movie was a little different than I was expecting. From the trailers I was expecting explosions and action pieces, but it’s actually quite quiet.
MATT REEVES: In places, yeah.
Also, there seem to be three stages: You’ve got the woods, the road and then the prison. Was that deliberate?
MR: Yeah, for sure. We start in the war, but the war that is the most important is the war within Caesar, because Caesar is an incredibly empathic character. That’s actually been his strength. He’s the bridge between the two species. He’s sort of human and ape, but neither, because he was brought up by humans, but not a human, and he wasn’t brought up by apes, but he is an ape. So he was the hope for peace that didn’t work out. So in this story, the extremes of war pushes him to a place where he loses his empathy. So you look at this sort of fight for his soul and it becomes like a Biblical epic. The movie starts in a battle and then it evolves into an almost Apocalypse Now move up the river, which is really crossing the California landscape, up into the Sierras, and looking for the soldiers, then finding them at that camp. Then it becomes almost like Bridge on the River Kwai, which is another PR bull story, then a little bit like The Great Escape.
War for the Planet of the Apes is Caesar’s legacy, basically. He’s a symbol for what Planet of the Apes is going to be.
MR: Yes. You know what it is? He has to pass this test to become – I wanted the film to sort of move into the realm of the mythic. I wanted him to become the legend, so that future generations of apes could look back at this period in history and see him as the reason that they were there. He would be almost like an ape Moses. So that is the big challenge for him. He could go the way of Koba and lose the ability to emphasize altogether and be consumed and be destroyed, or he can transcend and become this mythic figure, and that’s what this story is about.
We heard last year that there was a fourth movie in development, but this movie seems to wrap up the story.
MR: Well, what it does is take you through that Caesar-cycle but the continuation of the story, one of the things we were really careful to setup, was this notion that Bad Ape was a sign that there were other apes out there and how will Caesar’s apes with future society’s that might be elsewhere, that didn’t have the benefit of Caesar’s leadership? The world of this movie still doesn’t look like the world of the 68 movie. Caesar’s apes are not the same as the apes in that movie. So the idea is we’re kind of telling these giant, epic, almost chapter-after-chapter of a Russian Ape novel. Tolstoy of the Apes – how do we get to that ’68 movie? So we think there’s a lot more stories. Yeah.
Just as a final question: Do you think there’s value in remaking the original?
MR: No. I don’t think there’ll ever be a reason to remake the original. I think the idea is to tell all the stories that take you there and then there might be an entry point that’s a different story that resonates around that same time but you never want to remake that movie.
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