One of the best sci-fi film franchises isn't over. A new movie in the Planet of the Apes series is now in development, but there's a lot of unknown variables as to what the next movie will be about.
In December 2019, The Hollywood Reporter reported that a new Planet of the Apes movie will arrive from 20th Century Fox's new owners, Disney. The movie comes after 2017's acclaimed blockbuster War for the Planet of the Apes, the third (and final?) movie featuring the central character Caesar, played in motion capture by Andy Serkis.
The future of the franchise was left in doubt in the aftermath of Disney’s merger with the owners of the Planet of the Apes, 20th Century Fox in 2019. It was unclear what Disney’s intentions were for Fox’s adult-oriented, R-rated films. Now it seems Disney isn’t afraid to reassess Fox's older-skewing movies as their own as they prepare to tackle one of the most prolific science-fiction franchises in the Fox library.
But what will the next film actually be about? Is it a reboot or a sequel? Here's what we know.
What is Planet of the Apes?
Planet of the Apes is a series of dystopian sci-fi movies about an Earth ruled by intelligent apes, replacing humans as the most dominant species on the planet. Hence, the title.
The series began in 1968 with Planet of the Apes, adapted from Pierre Boulle’s 1963 novel La Planète des singes that served at the source material for the big screen adaptation. The movie's popularity spawned four sequels: Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972), and Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973).
In 2001, Tim Burton directed a remake starring Mark Wahlberg that failed to find the same success as its predecessors. Ten years later, a new reboot series began in 2011 with Rise of the Planet of the Apes directed by Rupert Wyatt, which revealed the origins of how modern society fell to the mercy of intelligent apes. Wrapped up in critical acclaim and box office success, the movie spawned two more sequels: 2014's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and 2017's Rise of the Planet of the Apes, both directed by Matt Reeves and all starring Andy Serkis in a groundbreaking motion capture performance.
Is the next movie a sequel or a reboot?
For the most part, the story of the "fourth" Planet of the Apes movie is unclear. While unsubstantiated online rumors reported that the movie will reboot the story, director Wes Ball wrote on Twitter that it may actually continue the story of the reboot trilogy. "Don't worry. I won't ruin the surprises," Ball wrote, "but it's safe to say that Caesar's legacy will continue."
Based on Ball's comments, it's plausible that the "fourth" movie won't reboot the story, but might take place some time after Caesar's leadership. That upholds Caesar's "legacy" while still freeing the filmmakers to write a story not beholden to continuity or canon.
When is the release date for the new Planet of the Apes movie?
There is no planned release date set for the new Planet of the Apes movie.
But here's our shot at guessing: Back in November 2019, Disney announced a massive schedule of release dates through 2023 for Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Fox movies — essentially accounting for every one of the House of Mouse’s holdings save Lucasfilm. Given the sheer amount of dates blocked out in 2021, 2022, and 2023 for Fox, it’s a given that one is for the next Planet of the Apes movie.
Realistically, this movie will likely be scheduled for a summer or winter 2022 slot (per Deadline Fox has June 10, November 11, and December 23) because there’s no reason not to capitalize on packed holiday theaters. Additionally, 2022 makes sense considering how much time it will take to put this movie through live-action filming and lengthy post-production.
What is the title of the new Planet of the Apes movie?
This new Planet of the Apes movie is still untitled.
Who will direct the next Planet of the Apes movie?
Wes Ball will direct the new Planet of the Apes movie. To date, Ball is best known for directing The Maze Runner film trilogy, an adaptation of the young adult novels of the same name. Ball was previously set to direct a feature film adaptation of the BOOM! Comics series Mouse Guard until Disney canceled the project.
What is the plot of the new Planet of the Apes?
We don’t know anything about the plot of the new Planet of the Apes yet.
The basic gist of the 1968 original goes like this: An astronaut from our present-day gets lost in space and crashes on a strange planet that is governed and populated with apes who talk, have developed cultural practices reminiscent of humans, and have also enslaved humans. The astronaut comes to realize he somehow went centuries into the future while lost in space and has actually landed on Earth.
The new trilogy revealed the origins of how the apes grew intelligent. As a few humans sought the cure for Alzheimer’s, the formula proved harmful to humans but helpful to apes as the apes learned to develop speech and organize an uprising against their human oppressors.
Is there a trailer for the new Planet of the Apes?
There are currently no trailers, photos, or other materials of the project. The movie has yet to begin production.
Is the next Planet of the Apes movie the start of a new series?
It’s tough to tell what Fox and Disney’s plans for Planet of the Apes are at this point. While it’s a big deal that Disney is taking a look at one of Fox’s biggest intellectual properties, the making of a new Planet of the Apes movie could go in any number of directions.
Will Andy Serkis return?
As of December 2019, Serkis is not expected to return to Planet of the Apes. The actor is currently directing Venom 2, a sequel to 2018's Venom, and it's unclear if Serkis has room in his schedule for another massive project.
There is currently no release date for the next movie in the Planet of the Apes series.