The Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes Ending is Not as Clear As You Think

The ending of the new Apes epic will leave you with more questions than answers.

Freya Allan as Mae in 'Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes.'
20th Century Studios

Historically, the endings of Planet of the Apes movies tend to break people’s brains. From time paradoxes in the original films to tantalizing clues at the end of the 2011-2017 trilogy, to the batsh*t inexplicable twist in the 2001 Tim Burton version. But, the newest Apes installment, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, might be the twistiest so far, simply because it’s also the most obtuse of all the Apes movie endings.

So what does the ending of Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes really mean? Here’s what happened, plus a few different theories as to what the heck is going on here. Big spoilers ahead.

Mae and the humans

Mae knows way more about what’s going on than she reveals.

20th Century Studios

For most of the movie, we see feral humans being hunted by apes, much like the way humans were depicted in the classic films. Mae (Freya Allan) stands out among the crowd simply because she can speak. But, after Mae obtains a special decryption disc drive thingamabob from a sealed-off human vault, we see her make contact with a whole base of contemporary humans. These humans take Mae’s disc, which allows them to reactivate a bunch of decrepit radio antennas in an attempt to contact other humans.

The movie ends with this group of humans getting a voice message from people saying “This is Fort Wayne, Indiana,” and then asking “Where are you?” The movie ends before our humans respond to that question, meaning, we don’t, in fact, know where they are calling from. So, where are they calling from? What the heck is going on here?

The astronaut mural

What does this astronaut mural mean?

20th Century Studios

Earlier in the film, the ape Noa (Owen Teague) and Mae found an observatory, complete with a working telescope. We don’t know exactly what Noa and Mae saw in that telescope, but, at the end of the movie, we’re reminded of this spot, as well as an image of an astronaut in a mural in that same observatory. The movie ends with Mae and Noa, looking up at the stars, and wondering about... something.

So, the emphasis here is clearly on space, and, possibly the future. But, also, there’s clearly a suggestion of past space travel that we’re not fully clued in on. Within the context of the contemporary Apes franchise, this all could be a reference to the Icarus astronauts who were “lost in space” in the first reboot, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Could those astronauts have returned through some kind of time dilation? Or is there something zanier here?

Perhaps, because the apes and humans in this movie never make specific references to Earth monuments, it’s conceivable that the entire action we see in this film is not located on planet Earth at all, but instead, an Earth-Ape colony planet that fell into disarray a long time ago. Communication with “Fort Wayne, Indiana,” could simply mean that this not-Earth planet is making contact with Earth. Maybe?

While this theory does seem far out — and might be contradicted by the presence of a building that looks like something from LAX — it would answer most of the questions this movie raises. Why is the ending of the movie obsessed with astronauts? What did Mae and Noa see in the telescope? Why do humans not respond to the question of their location?

The simplest explanation here is that the movie is trying to leave things vague and keep us guessing. In all likelihood, we were still on Earth the whole time, and what Mae has done has is simply restarted human technology, which, in theory, could give humans an advantage over apes in the future. Which, of course, might lead to a war.

The fate of Raka

Wait, is Raka alive?

20th Century Studios

While Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes doesn’t have a post-credits scene, it does have a post-credits audio-only Easter egg. With the screen totally black, we hear the sound of an orangutan, which, previously, we heard coming from Raka (Peter Macon). Earlier in the movie, it appeared that Raka drowned, while Mae and Noa battled the bad apes on the bridge. But, what this little sound effect might hint at is that Raka totally survived that river, and could be back for a sequel.

So, if there is a sequel to Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, it has a lot of explaining to do. What’s up with the astronaut thing? What was in the telescope? And, is Raka alive? We may never have answers to these questions, but that’s okay. Dropping weird twists is now, and always, an Apes franchise tradition.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is in theaters now.

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