When it was first announced that Rupert Wyatt was stepping up to helm a reboot of Planet of the Apes, intended to chronicle the decline of humanity and "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," the Internet responded with standard skepticism and the assumption that the relaunch was little-more than a shallow cash grab on a known (but defunct) franchise. Skepticism reached its apex when it was revealed that James Franco would star in the film as gifted scientist - opposite a CGI ape character, Caesar (Andy Serkis).
In less capable hands, the film could have been a critical and box office bomb; yet, Wyatt and now-series star Andy Serkis delivered a thoughtful sci-fi drama with a fresh perspective, following the growth, maturation, and psychological turmoil of a hyper-intelligent ape - a character that wasn't human but, being an ape, was actually able to reflect more about the human condition than a comparatively "normal" protagonist. Throughout Rise, it became clear that Franco was not the real star of this Planet of the Apes relaunch and that Caesar (and Serkis) would be the true future of the franchise. However, with War for the Planet of the Apes set to hit theaters in 2017, and Caesar in more danger than ever, what would happen to the film series - should Caesar not make it out alive this time?
Speaking exclusively with Screen Rant at New York Comic-Con, following the debut of the War for the Planet of the Apes teaser trailer, star Andy Serkis, writer-director Matt Reeves, and producer Dylan Clark opened up about their Planet of the Apes series - specifically whether we could see a non-Caesar led film in the future:
Matt Reeves: "It's all one universe and Caesar has a very important part in ape history. We think of him being the seminal figure in ape history like Moses but as the idea, that tapestry, extends outward, there are all kinds of new characters in this story that you could absolutely follow. It's really about this trajectory that all of the apes are on, that all of the characters are on, and have been very intentionally centered around Caesar, but the universe is meant to be larger than just him as well."
Since War for the Planet of the Apes doesn't open until 2017, it'll be awhile before we know whether Caesar will pay the ultimate sacrifice for his people this round or will live to lead another day. Either way, the team's shift toward talking about the Planet of the Apes movies as a "universe" rather than simply a film series certainly suggests that 20th Century Fox has no plans of abandoning the critically-acclaimed relaunch once Caesar's story is complete (now or later on). The idea of an Apes movie universe might sound strange, even in an industry that has become increasingly obsessed with shared "universe" stories, but Wyatt and Reeves have established an intriguing stage on which to tell quality character stories - albeit stories in which some of the most relatable characters are not human.
The filmmakers aren't out of their minds either. Just as Caesar has become a film star, several supporting characters, such as Maurice (Karin Konoval) and Rocket (Terry Notary) have also become increasingly defined and will be further fleshed out in War for the Planet of the Apes.
Serkis suggests that enough foundation and character development has been laid for any of the apes to carry on the series in his place - even if Caesar is no longer in the picture:
"The way that all of the characters are drawn is so complete and nuanced, the way that Woody Harrelson's character, the way that Maurice evolves, or Rocket, all of their journeys, should you choose, you could follow the story from any point of view and it would make total emotional, psychological, and philosophical sense."
That all said, while plenty of fans might really dig a movie following the adventures of Maurice or Rocket, or potentially a new ape introduced in War for the Planet of the Apes, having a character that is created by the combined efforts of an actor (wearing motion capture tech) and visual effects gurus (applying digital makeup) allows for a unique opportunity - the potential for Serkis to continue to star (or at least participate) in the series as a completely different character in addition to, or instead of, Caesar.
Andy Serkis: "That would be an amazing thing to do. It would be an extraordinary thing to do. As Matt [Reeves] has always said, we know the outcome and it's just how long you want to make from here to there to that outcome. There's infinite possibilities of carrying on the mythic arc of their journey together."
Matt Reeves: It would be really cool if, in the future, should that ever happen, if Andy wanted to come back and play anything he wanted.
Dylan Clarke: "We will let him play any character he likes."
Again, there are no official plans for Caesar's story to end with War for the Planet of the Apes but it's certainly fun to speculate on where this unique blend of character and science-fiction as well as live-action and CGI effects could go down the line. Similarly, it's hard to imagine that cinephiles wouldn't be excited about the prospect of more Serkis in the Apes series - should Caesar meet his end.
We'll return with more coverage of War for the Planet of the Apes at New York Comic-Con and later, leading up to the film's release, we'll be posting interviews with the War for the Planet of the Apes cast and crew - as well as a full write-up from our time on the film's set! Prepare for War!
War for the Planet of the Apes opens in U.S. theaters on July 14th, 2017.