55 Years Later, a Groundbreaking Sci-Fi Franchise Goes Back to Basics

Things are looking very 1968 — in a good way.

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Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes
20th Century Fox

It’s time to go ape, again. After a successful and risky reboot trilogy that began in 2011, the Planet of the Apes franchise seems to be going back to the beginning... by moving the canon of the reboot films into the future. The next movie, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, looks a lot like a remake of the 1968 classic, Planet of the Apes, but with one crucial difference. Could this be the first Apes movie without a human lead?

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes trailer

The new trailer fakes us out with a voiceover that seems to come from a human, but we eventually see two apes talking to each other. Caesar was still the only ape who could really talk in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, while War for the Planet of the Apes dealt with a post-apocalyptic but contemporary-ish human society. Notably, it also posited that humans were developing a kind of aphasia, making them more animal-like.

Fast-forward to the trailer for Kingdom, and the roles of apes and humans have been inverted. In fact, we see humans being hunted and captured in a way nearly identical to the original 1968 movie. According to official info, we’re now “several generations in the future following Caesar’s reign,” which makes it seem like the canon of the old movies has been blended with the newer films. What does that mean for the franchise?

A reboot — with a twist

The future of Apes is here.

20th Century Fox

Back in 2011, Rise of the Planet of the Apes attempted to present a less paradoxical origin for an ape planet than the five original films provided. In 1971’s Escape from the Planet of the Apes, the domination of intelligent apes over humanity was revealed to have been brought about by time travel, making the time travel into the future of the first film even more strange and tragic.

The new films didn’t bother with twists like that, instead telling a more conventional, believable story that could lead to ape domination with no time travel of spaceships required. Now, with Kingdom, we’re looking at the payoff to all that setup.

Unlike the three previous reboot films, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes can actually tackle the themes and scenarios of the classic films head-on, but with contemporary writing. For the first time since the 2011 reboot, the Apes franchise is in a unique position to move forward while still giving audiences what they might expect from an Apes film: an Earth that feels almost medieval, complete with dominant apes and humans looking like cavepeople.

In other words, Kingdom is returning the franchise to the delicious aesthetics of the original film, in which humans were animals in a kingdom ruled by animals. Visually, this metaphor is potent and complex, but the old movies didn’t always deliver on the concept’s potential. Based on this trailer, we may not need many humans to get the themes across. Instead, the franchise could deliver on its core conceit of a planet ruled by apes. Kingdom is going back to what made the Apes franchise so intriguing in the first place, and in doing so, it might kick off the next round of great dystopic sci-fi blockbusters.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes hits theaters on May 24, 2024.

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