Spoilers ahead for War for the Planet of the Apes.
War for the Planet of the Apes is a conclusion. It may not be the ending for the franchise, but it’s definitely the end of the Caesar Trilogy as Caesar (Andy Serkis) dies from his wounds after leading his people to a promised land. It’s a touching, moving finale that shows there’s room for real growth and stakes. More importantly, it shows that Caesar’s journey mattered. He was the central figure of all of the rebooted Apes franchise, and War shows him not just as the first smart ape, but also as the leader capable of forging a new civilization.
Where some viewers may be confused, however, is in the conclusion setting up a possible tie to the original Planet of the Apes. The biggest tell here is Nova (Amiah Miller), who shares her name with Linda Harrison’s character from the 1968 original. Additionally, Nova, like Harrison’s character and the other humans in the original movie, can’t speak, which is why Astronaut George Taylor (Charlton Heston), who can talk, is so remarkable to the ruling apes. While the original Planet of the Apes never explains why humans lost the ability to speak, War shows that it’s a mutation of the original virus, the Simian Flu, which killed off a large portion of humanity following the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
First off, there’s the fact that we would have to disregard Rise being a straight reboot. In the original Planet of the Apes saga (spoilers ahead), the Apes rise up because they’re led by Caesar (Roddy McDowell) in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. Caesar is the child of Cornelius (also McDowell) and Zira (Kim Hunter), who traveled back in time in Escape from the Planet of the Apes after the planet was destroyed at the end of Beneath the Planet of the Apes (this franchise rules).
Rise presents an entirely new timeline where Caesar is the offspring of Bright Eyes, a chimpanzee given a drug to test a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease. Bright Eyes has increased intelligence from the drug, and that intelligence is passed on to her son, Caesar.
Additionally, the dates don’t line up. The original Planet of the Apes takes place in the year 3978. Rise takes place in 2011, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes takes place in 2021, and War takes place in 2023. To assume that War is taking us back to the 1968 Apes is to disregard the new movies as a reboot.
Instead, it’s better to look at where the franchise is going as a new spin on the original movies. This is a good thing because it leaves future filmmakers (should the franchise continue) the room to branch out and tell new stories rather than be tied to the 1968 film. Yes, War does show humanity losing its ability speak, but it also shows that coexistence is possible as Nova is accepted into Caesar’s tribe.
What I’d like to see future Apes movies do is finally leave humanity behind and really build on the notion of what it means to build a civilization. Dawn touches on this with the battle between Caesar and Koba (Toby Kebbell), but their actions are with regards to how they should approach humanity—Caesar wants peace, and Koba wants war. With humanity now no longer at the top of the food chain and Apes as the dominant species, this makes way for new, interesting questions.
Those questions become even more fascinating with Caesar out of the picture. War wisely leaves his young son, Cornelius, alive at the end, but without a father. If the next movie picks up ten years after War, we would see a young Cornelius wrestle with his father’s legacy and where he fits in. He never really knew his father, but his father shaped the future of the species. That’s a hell of a legacy to live up to, and Cornelius could be tested as new factions of apes (we know they’re out there because of Bad Ape) come into the picture. The next Planet of the Apes movie could really dig into the notion of whether or not the Apes can be better than humans or if they’ll fall into the same mistakes.
Of course, this is all assuming there’s another Planet of the Apes movie. Presumably, Fox will keep making them as long as they do well at the box office. And since this is one of the best franchises around, you should definitely see War for the Planet of the Apes as soon as possible.