The rebooted Planet of the Apes film series, which started with 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, has been about Andy Serkis’ Caesar character. However, Caesar is not the only ape in the franchise to leave a lasting impression on viewers. Introduced as a bit player in Rise, Koba (Toby Kebbell) played a principal role in 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. While the movie was arguably without a full-blown villain, Koba served as the primary antagonist. His tortured history with humans placed him in a battle of ideologies with Caesar, and the two came to blows over the best course of action to take. Koba was one of Dawn‘s most compelling figures and quickly became a fan-favorite.
Unfortunately for viewers, Koba’s time in the franchise seemed to come to an end as Dawn reached its conclusion. After getting into a fight with Caesar, Koba fell to his death. Of course, just became a character seems to perish on-screen doesn’t necessarily mean that they will stay dead for future installments (see: Agent Coulson in the Marvel Cinematic Universe), so some fans were hoping that Koba’s plummet was not as fatal as it looked. However, there are no such plans to bring Koba back in next summer’s War for the Planet of the Apes. As difficult as it was to say goodbye to such a strong character, Koba is dead.
Screen Rant visited the set of War for the Planet of the Apes and spoke with producer Dylan Clark. During the discussion, Clark addressed this very topic, describing the thought process when piecing together the story for the threequel:
There was talk between Matt and I, we were bummed a little that we fell in love with Toby Kebbell. Koba is a great character. He was great for entertainment. He was great for Caesar. Caesar loved Koba. He was his brother, until the humans showed up and Koba could not contain his rage and everything was lost. We loved what that said about the world but we also loved what it said emotionally for these two characters. We were really sad to see him in visual effects turnover meetings tumble down three hundred feet and die in a fiery ball of Hell. Yeah, there were conversations like, “They wouldn’t have done that to Darth Vader!” Again, we’re not saying we’re Star Wars good and we’re not saying Koba is Darth Vader good but Darth Vader was the best character out of Star Wars, the original. I think everybody flipped out about that. And so we were like, “Gah! Did we make a mistake killing Koba?” But we have to look each other in the eyes and say, “Could anybody survive that fall… for real?” And the answer is “no.”
Given that Koba was one of the best elements of Dawn, it isn’t surprising that the creative team had conversations trying to figure out a plausible way for him to return. While it is sad that Koba has truly met his bitter end, his legacy will still be felt in War. After all, Koba was the one who incited the titular conflict when he attempted to assassinate Caesar, burned the ape village down, and blamed the humans. It should be very interesting to see the consequences of these actions take shape, especially since Caesar is a pacifist and preferred to avoid confrontation. But now he’s being looked upon to lead his species to victory against desperate people fighting for their own survival. Caesar should continue to evolve in fascinating ways as his role shifts, providing Serkis with meaty material to chew on.
Of course, Koba’s permanent absence creates a large void that War and any future installments will have to fill. Fortunately, it seems like Caesar will have a formidable opponent in the form of Woody Harrelson’s The Colonel. Harrelson is a multi-talented actor capable of playing a wide variety of roles, so he should have no issues delivering another strong performance. Hopefully the script allows the Colonel to become a three-dimensional, well-rounded character that keeps in line with others from this franchise. Planet of the Apes is riding a lot of forward momentum, and Fox undoubtedly wants that to continue.