Beware actual and potential spoilers abound in this article. If you do not want to know potential plot details for the third Apes movie, and/or the end of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, you should probably stop reading now!
In a recent interview with Chinese news site, M Time, a rather surprising question was posed to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves. To most of us, it seemed fairly unambiguous that the villainous usurping ape Koba died when he was dropped from the top of the human colony tower. However it seems he might have somehow survived. When asked if this was possible, Reeves explained:
You're one of the few people to ever mention that. That's pretty funny. Because I struggled with... I thought that Toby Kebbell gave such an incredible performance. And I thought he was so powerful and I thought: 'God, you don't find a villain who has got that great a story.'
Because as you said, he was not really formed as a villain; he's really a tragic figure. And I thought: 'God, he's amazing; let's leave open the possibility. Let's create the door of a possibility if we find a story that becomes worth telling, that we can go down that path again because I thought the vein was so rich.
Indeed, it seems there was once a time that it was intended Koba would survive and the movie would explicitly show this. Reeve continued:
I actually had been working on a version where you could actually see him survive and I realized that it wasn't...it was Caesar's movie, and it was undercutting the whole idea. It sort of felt cheap. And so as we were mixing, I was like: 'I want to just leave one tiny Easter Egg right at the end. I want to leave open the door just the tiniest crack.'
It seems that 'crack' could have been in the blank post-credits scene in which faint ape like sounds can be heard moving around among debris and rubble.
Of course, being dropped from a height is often one of the less 'permanent' ways to die in a movie. In fact, unless you see someone explicitly die in front of your eyes, there could be some possible way in which the victim survived. Just ask Gandalf.
In light of this news, let's look at some other characters which died ambiguous 'non-deaths'. Once again, beware of spoilers!
Gandalf - The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
As mentioned above, Gandalf is a perfect example of how falling down a chasm doesn't necessarily mean you're going to die, even if that chasm is occupied by a giant fire demon.
Of course, Gandalf wasn't brought back to keep audiences happy and give more energy to a flagging franchise, his return was instead a pivotal plot point in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Here is playing a practical joke on his pals below:
Agent Smith - The Matrix Trilogy
One of the advantages of setting your film in a computer simulated world that does not necessarily obey the laws of physics, is that bringing back 'dead' computer programs is of no major issue.
Therefore despite Agent Smith being exploded by an internal Keanu Reeves, he was able to return in the later, and initially unplanned, sequel, The Matrix: Reloaded. In fact, it wasn't just Smith who returned, he brought along about 4 dozen buddies too:
Ramirez - Highlander II: The Quickening
As we were continually reminded, the only way to kill an immortal in Highlander is to swipe off his head. That's a fact that was established pretty firmly in the original Highlander movie. So, when we saw Sean Connery's Ramirez suffering that exact fate, we all assumed he had finally left this mortal coil.
However, along came Highlander II: The Quickening, and studio execs seemingly wanted Connery to return, and return he did. We saw him in various flashbacks, but apparently, that wasn't enough. So it came as a bit of a surprise when later in the film, Ramirez is fully revived during a production of Hamlet. There's a reason The Quickening is known as one of the worst movies ever made...
Captain Barbossa - Pirates of the Caribbean Series
Rumor has it that producers were so enamored with the on screen chemistry between Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush, they decided the previously villainous captain of the Black Pearl had to return to the franchise - despite the fact he was supposed to have permanently died in The Curse of the Black Pearl.
Indeed, director Gore Verbinski took his return as an opportunity to enforce some method acting upon his cast. In the final scene of Dead Man's Chest, the congregated cast were actually expecting Zoe Saldana's character to walk down the stairs. Rush's return to the series had been kept secret from the cast, so as to illicit real expressions of surprise. You can certainly see Orlando Bloom do a little double take below:
Lawrence Gordon - Saw Series
Along with falling and explosions, passing out through blood loss is another oft-used cause of 'non-permanent movie death'. When Lawrence Gordon sawed his own foot off at the climax of Saw, it was widely assumed that he became another victim of Jigsaw's sadistic game.
However, later in the franchise - indeed, once it had admittedly jumped the shark - the producers decided to return Lawrence to the realm of the living. In fact, as well as giving him a new foot, they retroactively explained that he had been behind many of the contraptions used by Jigsaw over the franchise. The explanation doesn't totally make sense (why would be ally with someone who put him through so much torture?), which suggests his return had more to with trying to boost an ailing franchise than actually developing the story. Here he is crawling off 'never to be seen again':
Can you think of any more characters which die in one movie of a franchise, only to be returned to life in another?
Would you like to see Koba return in the third Apes movie?