War for the Planet of the Apes Director Matt Reeves recently tweeted the first production still from set of the new film. With the film now shooting there will be lots of new teases to come over the next two years, leading up to its expected release date of July 14th 2017. There are some spoilers for the recent Planet of the Apes films.
The still image pays homage to the iconic Charlton Heston horse scene at the conclusion of original film. This could provide clues to what the story to the next instalment of the long running film series could entail; the official plot is still unknown outside the film's production. The image itself is very exciting to see, considering the successes of the two previous films, Rise and Dawn.
It would be very difficult to argue that the reboot/prequel films in the series haven't been handled with care and expertise. Both films were quite separate in tone and style, but the birth and rise of Caesar as leader of the Ape race were solid popcorn outings.
Rise of the Apes
Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a pleasant surprise for many considering Tim Burton's less than interesting effort. James Franco's performance as the surrogate father and mother to Caesar may have been shaky at times but there is something quite lovable about his paternal affection. However Tom Felton type-casting himself as Draco Malfoy doesn't really deserve much more reference than that. The film succeeded most in utilising the best advancements in motion capture technology and the performance of Andy Serkis as Caesar. The moment when Caesar stands up for his ape brothers by speaking for the first time was spine tingling and heart stopping. It was a sign that recognition for motion capture performances at the Academy Awards was now well overdue.
Dawn of the Apes
The follow up, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, showed with confidence that there is continued potential to the franchise. Set 10 years after the previous film and some years after a deadly virus killedoff most of humanity, Caesar (again performed by Andy Serkis) and the Apes have built their own community undisturbed and in peace. Jason Clarke takes the lead human role this time and becomes a worthy ally to Caesar. What works really well in this sequel, is the balance given to Humans and Apes and establishing that enemies are within their own ranks. We are not meant to side with either Apes or Humans. Both leaders want to protect their own family and community and as the film concludes at the moment when both sides know the inevitable - that war is on the horizon - is emotional heartbreaking.
War of the Apes
All we know of the new film, War for the Planet of the Apes so far is that Andy Serkis will return and that Woody Harrelson plays a villain only known as 'Colonel' at this stage. We can assume he plays a Colonel of the human army. A rumoured cut scene from the end of Dawn included the arrival of a fleet of Naval ships. So all paths, including the title, point to the fact that this movie will feature the grand war between humans and apes.
A question to ask is whether the war will span multiple films, or if there is intention to wrap this prequel series into a trilogy. The tweet from Matt Reeves from set may point to some sort of conclusion, to bring the series in line to the 1974 original film.
Could that mean future Ape films will be remakes of the original series or will the storyline continue to diverge on its own narrative? Which ever story decision is made by the powers that be, we will have a clearer idea in July 2017.
Are you excited for a new Planet of the Apes film and which one has been your favourite so far? Tell us in the comments.
Daniel Sanguineti is a Australian Film Producer and Writer, who tutors film and media at the University of Canberra and the Canberra Institute of Technology. He is on twitter @DanSanguineti.