Planet of the Apes was the original sci-fi super-franchise. The first film, which told of astronaut Charlton Heston’s adventures on a strange world where apes rule and humans are dumb mutes that was revealed (48 year-old spoiler which features on the DVD cover of every re-release) to be a nuclear war-ravaged Earth, is an icon of the genre, with countless quotable lines (and, yes, one of the greatest twists of all time). It proved so big a hit it spawned four more movies of increasingly lower-budgets and higher levels of ridiculousness that took the franchise further into the future, then backwards to explore the origins of the ape rebellion. There were also two TV shows – a Saturday morning cartoon and a live-action series – and a merchandising blitz that would only be beaten by Star Wars a few years later.
After decades of quiet (and a poorly-received Tim Burton-helmed reboot) the franchise returned in 2011 with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, starting a new prequel/reboot series that looks at how in the modern day such a dystopia would come about. Both of the films so far existed apart from the previous continuity, yet still had plenty of nods to the originals as well. While those are great little in-jokes for long-term fans though, it appears they were the subject of major discussion amongst the filmmakers.
During Screen Rant’s visit to the set of War for the Planet of the Apes, the third part in the new series that will see the battle between man and ape reach its destructive peak, producer Dylan Clark revealed that they were actually very wary of making too many obvious winks towards the originals:
“In the first one [Rise of the Planet of the Apes] we did some Easter Eggs: We shot the Icarus up, it wasn’t my taste but we even used some dialog from the original – there were some fights about that one. The second one, there are certain characters and there are some certain things that you will see in this movie too. Again, we pay some homage, some of it’s just cool for the mythology but we’re never sitting in our story meeting going, “How do we link up to what they did in Beneath?” or, “God, they did that in Conquest. Can we do a version of that better?” – Never. We love those movies, most of those movies. Some of them are not so good. We revere them. They were a great five-run but they’re over here.”
The previous references Clark discusses include a newspaper announcing a spaceflight similar to the one that took Charlton Heston to the future in the original; Caesar building a Statue of Liberty toy (a nod to the big twist); a coffee shop called Nova (Linda Harrison’s love interest); and lines such as “Take your stinking paw of me, you damn dirty ape!” Those all come from Rise, however, with the sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes being notably lighter on easter eggs and replicated story beats, something that appears to have been part of a concerted move away.
This would all seem to suggest that War will feature even less in the way of winks for fans (so no mutants worshipping doomsday bombs then). That’s a shame for easter egg hunters, although hardly shocking; as the new series has progressed, it’s become less reliant on the franchise’s legacy from a storytelling point, with Andy Serkis’ Caesar as striking a character than anything in the originals and able to stand on his own.
It is still interesting that Clark cites similarities to the originals as a fear given that the two films so far both have shades of the earlier movies – in seeding rebellion, Rise was similar to Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, while Dawn took elements from the finale Battle for the Planet of the Apes. Perhaps that’s due to intrinsic elements of the Apes world concept, but it definitely promises that War will be going in a different direction; when humanity finally falls and the apes rise/dawn, don’t expect the Statue of Liberty to be amongst the wreckage.