In an age when reboots are often unnecessary and rarely live up the legacy of the beloved properties that inspired them, the modern Planet of the Apes trilogy stands apart. Begun with Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes in 2009 and concluded with Matt Reeves’ War for the Planet of the Apes in 2017, the trilogy stands as one of modern cinema’s best and a worthy successor to the original series that started it all. Now the question becomes, what’s next?
War for the Planet of the Apes brought an end to Caesar’s story, but the Planet of the Apes franchise will continue. We found out in December that a new film was on the way from The Maze Runner director Wes Ball, which will be the former Fox franchise’s first chapter made under the Disney corporate umbrella. Yet despite that change in ownership and rumors to the contrary, it seems that Wes Ball’s film will not be a full reboot of the property.
We now know what Wes Ball’s Planet of the Apes movie isn’t... but what is it? The filmmaker has said that his movie will continue Caesar’s legacy, but not much more than that, leaving the mystery intact for now. But mysteries exist to be solved, so it’s worth taking a stab at what the next Planet of the Apes movie will be. Here are a couple of guesses.
A Direct Sequel
At the end of War for the Planet of the Apes, Andy Serkis’ Caesar, the messianic warrior leader of the apes, perished after leading his people across the desert to a new home and freedom. Before he died, Maurice promised Caesar that he would tell his orphaned young son Cornelius about who his father was and what he did for the apes. If the next Planet of the Apes film is to continue Caesar’s legacy, following Cornelius’ story seems like the most direct and obvious way to do that.
If Wes Ball takes that approach, essentially making Planet of the Apes 4, the film could tell the story of a young Cornelius as he learns and grows with his people looking to him for guidance in their new home. The weight of Caesar’s legacy could weigh heavily on the young chimp, and this could perhaps result in something akin to The Lion King where Cornelius rejects his birthright and runs away before coming into his own. Such an approach could also show how the ape society enters a period of rapid growth.
A Movie Set Years In The Future
While a direct sequel might be the most obvious possible continuation, that doesn’t mean it’s the most likely. Another way to continue Caesar’s legacy would be to see the fruits of his labor in a distant future. That means seeing an older Cornelius and a flourishing ape society. Planet of the Apes 4 could do that by jumping much further ahead in the timeline than any of the recent sequels. The trilogy showed how apes gained higher intelligence and how humanity fell; now it’s time to see the anthropocene truly end and Earth become the planet of the apes that this franchise has been leading to.
The sequel could find Cornelius as an adult in a rapidly growing Ape City. This approach would also allow Wes Ball to explore the weight of Caesar’s legacy and the effect that has on Cornelius as he struggles to survive and deal with decisions that his father never had to in a continually changing world. Will the different groups of apes achieve the harmony that humans could not, or will they fall prey to the same fatal flaws? Will Cornelius begin to erase the truth about humanity from history? This approach would allow Wes Ball to pick up threads from the previous films, while telling a story that feels different and new.
A Remake Of The Original
Whether it happens with the next film, at the end of another trilogy or somewhere else down the line, the modern Planet of the Apes seems to be hurtling towards a remake of the 1968 original Planet of the Apes. This might seem like a bad idea and normally a remake of an iconic film is to be avoided, but we’ve already seen Planet of the Apes remade once (poorly), and given the quality of the current series there is reason to believe a new remake could succeed where the previous one failed.
The original film takes place far, far into the future, so as is it’s difficult for the two iterations of this franchise to line up exactly. This remake would be set in the Rise/Dawn/War continuity and the seeds have already been planted for this film with Easter eggs introduced in the previous movies. Maybe Wes Ball is ready to watch those seeds grow by jumping this franchise into the future with a remake of Planet of the Apes. With new technology and differences in the story, a remake would surely look and feel very different, while still being able to hit the same major beats as the original film.
Wes Ball’s statement on his Planet of the Apes film indicates he has some surprises in store, so perhaps his film will not take some of the more obvious paths we are expecting. His language about continuing Caesar’s legacy allows for a latitude of interpretations. Caesar’s legacy doesn’t have to be one of blood, but ideas and a movement. The myth of Caesar could carry to other parts of the country and the world, inspiring others. As we saw with Bad Ape in War for the Planet of the Apes, there are intelligent apes out there that were not part of Caesar’s group that could really open up the possibilities in this world.
Maybe the new film could follow an entirely different group of apes that came into their own under different circumstances and built a much different society than Caesar’s. The film could then dovetail with the previous trilogy by having the two disparate groups meet up. There are plenty of directions a new Apes movie could go both geographically and temporally. It sounds like Wes Ball may have a few tricks up his sleeve and that makes the prospect of a new Planet of the Apes movie even more intriguing.
Whatever exactly Wes Ball’s Planet of the Apes movie ends up being, it’s exciting to know that the legacy of Caesar and Rupert Wyatt/Matt Reeves’ films will continue. We’ll keep you updated on Planet of the Apes 4 or whatever it winds up being called as news develops.
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