Matt Reeves' Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is a truly fantastic blockbuster, and a big chunk of credit for that belongs to actor Toby Kebbell. While Andy Serkis got the bulk of the attention for his amazing turn as Caesar, Kebbell's performance as the antagonistic ape Koba is one of the most memorable villain turns of the past few years, as he manages to make the character simultaneously scary and relatable. He was so great, in fact, that the filmmakers behind the upcoming War For The Planet Of The Apes put forward the idea that Koba could return... before realizing that he really needed to stay dead for the sake of the movie's reality.
The fate of Koba was one of the many subjects discussed earlier this year when I had the incredible pleasure of joining a small group of journalists to visit the set of War For The Planet Of The Apes in Vancouver, Canada when the film was in production in January of this year. At the start of our time on set, we got to sit down with producer Dylan Clark for an extended conversation about the developing blockbuster, and one subject touched on was Koba's death in Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes. He mentioned that in the development of the sequel that he and director Matt Reeves discussed the idea of having Koba still be alive in the new movie, but that it was a notion they eventually had to dismiss. Said Clark,
There was talk - Matt and I, we were a little bit bummed in 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, and 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 effect turnover meetings, tumble down 300 feet and die in a fiery ball of hell.
While Dylan Clark insisted that he wasn't trying to compare Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes to Star Wars, he also added a comparison between Koba and Darth Vader, in that he and Matt Reeves recognized that George Lucas had the good sense not to kill off the all-black-clad badass. That being said, realistically they just knew that it wasn't going to work bringing him back for War For The Planet Of The Apes. Clark explained,
There were conversations like, 'They wouldn't have done that to Darth Vader.' 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 everyone flipped out about that. So, we were like, 'God, did we make a mistake killing Koba?' But, again, we have to look each other in the eyes and say, could anybody survive that fall? For real? And the answer is no, and then we were sad.
As great as it would have been to see Koba again in War For The Planet Of The Apes, it really is for the best that the character won't be back -- for the exact reason that Clark mentions. One of the best aspects of this rebooted franchise to this point has been the way it has managed to be both big sci-fi and grounded in a real world, and it simply would have been impossible for Koba to survive his fall at the end of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Bringing him back would ultimately hurt that credibility, and therefore do more harm to the series than good. We can all mourn for Koba, but it's good that he's staying dead.
While War For The Planet Of The Apes won't feature Koba in the flesh, the character will certainly still be on the mind of Andy Serkis' Caesar in the new film, as he and his ape community continue to try and survive and thrive in the evolving world. It should all make for some deep, emotional blockbuster entertainment, and we couldn't be more excited for the film's scheduled theatrical arrival on July 14, 2017. In the meantime, be sure to stay tuned here on Cinema Blend, as we have a lot more set visit coverage coming your way very soon!