The Fractured Narrative of Planet of the Apes
Further to his comments about the remake, Reeves has talked about how he sees the future of the series being these epic, weighty chapters that will essentially make Planet of the Apes a modern day War and Peace. That's bold, ambitious filmmaking (not dissimilar to how Ridley Scott is handling another Fox legacy series, turning Alien into Paradise Lost) that feels fresh and daring in a widely-cited creative drought. However, this tact may eventually begin to wear away at an underlying issue with the prequels.
As a narrative, the POTA prequels are definitely greater than the sum of their parts. Ignoring the thematic and filmmaking aspects, which are mostly excellent, it's essentially a one-movie plot stretched over three. This is perhaps best seen in Dawn - a film that was originally set to be more like War - which spends the first half setting up a proper Ape-human conflict but balks in the third act to center on inter-species in-fighting. Is it still good? Yes. Is it frustrating that they're prevaricating to make more movies? Double yes.
When you look at how the movies are threaded and the plots that occur, Planet of the Apes is more fractured and future-thinking than any of the shared universes that get lumbered with those rote criticisms. That's not a full takedown because, as already stated, they hit so many other great heights; War especially does a sublime job of threading everything together (apes together strong). It's simply a repeated choice that risks becoming more objectionable as times goes on. Do we really need Debate for the Planet of the Apes (where Caesar's followers fight over who leads next), Expansion of the Planet of the Apes (where the united Caesar group go on a journey to find more apes), Conflict Within the Planet of the Apes (where the two groups finally fights), Legal Origins of the Planet of the Apes (where the law-giver starts making rules) and Domestic Bliss on the Planet of the Apes?
The other downside of continuing right where War left off is it could undercut the perfect ending to Caesar's arc and with it Andy Serkis' genre-busting work. Many will want things to pause for breath here and let the "end" sink in, but franchise demands simply won't allow that. However, the freedoms of this particular series provide a way to craft that space it into the narrative; it's definitely possible to make a new story powered by loss and legacy following on directly from the end of War, but a jump forward feels like a much more attractive, stronger idea. And while there's certainly plenty of aspects of Ape culture to explore wherever you go in the timeline, the one that provides the most captivating experience and allows full exploration of all the ideas raised thus far is a far-future intelligent human returning home.
More Planet of the Apes is happening, and as the series currently stands that's a highly unobjectionable thing. Remaking the original film may at first seem like a cynical, desperate step, but it is, in fact, the ideal way to maximize the success so far and ensure that it advances in new and exciting ways rather than falling into dogma. Even without Matt Reeves, who is next set to start work on The Batman, the series is probably going to work out good. But we want it to be great - and a remake, for once, is the answer.
- War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) release date: Jul 14, 2017