The project was a floor-up reboot of the Apes franchise which followed an intelligent ape named Caesar who would take the first tentative steps in helping apes rule the planet.
The film sounded like a totally radical take on one of Fox’s oldest franchises, and I was very skeptical that the film would ever make it to the big-screen.
Well it turns out that I was right- because the film is dead!
The original script was written by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, with Minority Report writer Scott Frank later brought on to rewrite and possibly direct the film for the studio.
Frank envisioned the film as not only a prequel to the original films, but also as contemporary thriller, that like most films in the Planet of The Apes franchise has some sort of social subtext. However, the suits at Fox have nixed any ideas for this planned reboot because they saw it as too dark and too expensive.
At the moment, Fox is a studio that seems to be towing the commercial line, and because of this their catalog of quality films seems to be diminishing. Sure, they made Avatar and have had a multitude of hits, but they’ve produced very little quality franchise material over the last decade or so. Few of these films will have any meaning in the future.
In a way, I see this as a mirror to what has happened in the music industry: major record labels went for the quick buck by releasing substandard music by artists with no staying power. Those artists will not have catalog sales in 30, 20, 10 or even five years. Now think of the repacking of artists such as Elvis, The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. MGM is such an important commodity at the minute because of its library of films – Fox has classics in the bank, but it has few modern classics!
Now, I haven’t read the script for Caesar, nor do I know much about the film or the direction that the project took. Frank’s plans could have been too radical, and more akin to a low-budget art project to actually reach a mass audience, or it could have been really bad. I don’t know, but to totally kill the project is a shame.
I feel that studios should take risks. Sometimes they pay off, and sometimes they don’t. However, following the huge grosses of Avatar, it’s not as if Fox is hurting for a buck at the moment. Fox is, after all, the studio that produced and released Fight Club a little over a decade ago, and while that film wasn’t a huge success on its release, it has had staying power and numerous DVD releases that were good for the bottom line.
Almost 20 years ago James Cameron circled the Planet of The Apes franchise, with Arnold Schwarzenegger in mind for the Charlton Heston role. It would be wonderful if he revisited the project once Schwarzenegger leaves public office. However, I find this doubtful; Avatar has some elements that are too similar to the original Apes film to make it worth Cameron's while.
Time will tell if 20th Century Fox reboot the franchise. They will at some point, but I don’t think that it will be anytime soon.
After all, the memories of Tim Burton’s "Ape-raham Lincoln" are still too fresh in our minds.