The trilogy of new Plane of the Apes films — Rise, Dawn, and now War for the Planet of the Apes — don’t fit neatly in the same continuity of original five films. But then again, maybe they do. Mark Bomback — the screenwriter on the new film — explains it like this: the new movies are a trilogy of prequels, meaning their stories will be viewed as mythology by a far-distant ape culture.
Considering the original films didn’t exactly have coherent continuity, this approach is not only novel, but smart. Even the most diehard fan of the original Planet of the Apes films would admit that the canon of the 1968 original barely matches up with what happens in 1973’s fifth and final installment, Battle for the Planet of the Apes. Never forget, this is the franchise that destroyed the entire Earth in the final minutes of the second film, and went on to try to make three more movies. With that in mind, War for the Planet of the Apes might be more connected to the lore of the original films than its two predecessors, at least in terms of laying out a few cues and markers which could “inspire” future apes to tell the stories of classic movies fans knew and loved.
With War for the Planet of the Apes opening in theaters nationwide this weekend, Inverse caught up with Mark Bomback, to help guide us through how the new Apes connect with the future apes from the old movies.
“How does this story we’ve been following become lore in this new civilization?” Bomback asks rhetorically, outlining the best way to interpret the various easter eggs and references in the new Apes film. “Generation after generation of their species would talk about [the new movies’] stories,” he says. “Toward that end, what are some touchstones in the original films that those generations would be talking about hundreds of years after these new movies are happening?”
Below are a few big references to the classic Planet of the Apes film — and even the original novel — all explained by Bomback.
Very mild spoilers for War for the Planet of the Apes ahead.
A Girl Named Nova
Fans of the original Apes films got very excited when it was revealed a young character named Nova would be a part of the new film. But Bomback wants fans to understand that the young girl played by Amiah Miller is not a young version of Linda Harrison. “She’s not supposed to be the character from the ‘68 film, but here we see how that name gets introduced into the universe of these movies. And…hundreds of years later, someone else is going to wind up being named Nova.”
Another familar name for Apes fans is the name Cornelius, who in some way, was originally the most famous of all the classic apes. Played by Roddy McDowall in the original film and then Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Cornelius was a friendly, intelligent and heroic guy. He and his wife Zira eventually gave birth to an little ape named Milo, who would later change his name to…Caesar (also played by McDowall.) Conquest of the Planet of the Apes established that version of Caesar caused the planet of the apes to rise via a time-paradox. Obviously, with the new apes movies, that’s not the case anymore. In this new mythology, the name Cornelius has been given its origin.
“You know Cornelia is actually the name of Caesar’s wife and that was established in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” Bomback says. “We thought it would be fun in this movie if the baby’s name was Cornelius and maybe he was the next in line to rule the kingdom after Caesar, and that name would repeat throughout ape history, the way named do in our own cultures.”
Humans Can’t Talk Anymore
In the original 1968 film, humans of the far future weren’t able to speak. This is true of what happens to humans on the planet of apes in the original Pierre Boulle novel, too. In those cases, the lack of speech was attributed to an evolutionary inversion. But with the new War for the Planet of the Apes, humans acquire this kind of aphasia virally.
“We’re starting from this new origin that was viral,” Bomback explains, referencing the 2011 Rise of the Planet of the Apes. “The point-of-view is that Caesar’s sentience wasn’t triggered by some weird jump in evolution, but that it is in fact, man-made. We like the idea that humans in the future are devolved to the point of apes in our world, and apes have evolved into what we think of as human. Why not keep the virus as a part of that?”
Bomback feels this is a tidier explanation than the one offered by the original film series. “It’s not entire clear to me in the original movie what caused the loss of speech; maybe the nuclear holocaust was responsible for it?” he said.
And speaking of a nuclear holocaust…
In the second original Apes film — Beneath the Planet of the Apes — a secret cult of humans worships a huge bomb called Alpha-Omega. Spoiler alert: this ends up destroying the entire Earth. In the new War for the Planet of the Apes movie, there are references to Alpha-Omega all over American flags in the evil Colonel’s (Woody Harrelson) camp. Bomback says this concept had “more relief in our script” than what ended up in “the actual film.” Though he notes “You see the Alpha/Omega symbolism everywhere, that’s a reference to the original series, that was the name of the cult of the humans. It’s the notion that history is always going to be repeating itself and that its unwittingly cyclical.”
Will the new trilogy of the new Apes films end as bleakly as some of the old classic films? The answer will be revealed this weekend. War for the Planet of the Apes is out in wide release from 20th Century Fox now.