Seen this ominous new trailer for War of the Planet of the Apes? The escalation between man and beast finally reaches the full-out battle long foreshadowed throughout this reboot. The apes have never looked more realistic, and the stakes have never seemed more dire.
Rise gave this franchise a real shot in the arm, proving a more grounded take on simian supremacy could, in fact, work quite well. Still, it’s always fun to point out to new fans that this series actually had a storied history throughout the 60s and 70s. In contrast to the more somber realism of these iterations, those installments could get quite… weird. Here are some of the most memorable oddities.
The Subterranean Mutant Psychic Nuke-Worshiping Cult
As it turned out, the nuclear catastrophe that cut the Statue of Liberty down to size by the first Planet of the Apes actually empowered as many humans as it reduced to simpletons. In Beneath the Planet of the Apes, another surviving pocket of mankind is introduced. Though horrifically scared by radiation, these cave-dwellers have actually patterned a religion around nuclear energy because their mutations have granted them mental powers. The holy relic they worship is actually an atomic missile, in fact. Suffice it to say, when militant gorillas mount an attack on their underground shrine, things don’t turn out well for anybody.
Doomsday-Powered, Time-Traveling Ape Astronauts
Trying to figure out where you go next after the whole planet blows up has got to be a tall order for any screenwriter. After some storytelling gymnastics, though, Escape from the Planet of the Apes opens with the revelation that some chimps had patched a space ship and were actually in orbit when the mutants’ nuke went off. The explosion sent them back in time (because, hey, it’s 70s sci-fi), and thus, the third film opens with a flip of the first, having ape astronauts crashland into a Planet of Humans.
Apes Celebrities on A 70s TV Press Tour
Escape might actually be the weirdest of this set by sole virtue of it being set in a very down-to-Earth 1970s LA. Seriously. Tune into random scenes without proper context and you’ll think you’re watching an episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show… that just happens to guest star talking chimps. The film eventually takes a very tragic turn by the end, but a big chunk of its runtime is the still this breezy sitcom where Cornelius and Zira (Caesar’s future parents) get to enjoy the perks of being celebrities in America. They make talk show appearances, attend sporting events, speak on the hillarities of marriage, and even enjoy creature comforts like bubble baths.
Ricardo Montleban, Adopted Father of the Apocalypse
The finale of Escape leaves Cornelius and Zira’s baby, Caesar, in the charge of Armando, a circus owner played by the man otherwise known as Khan. Before he was hosting guests at Fantasy Island or pitching the virtues of Corinthian leather, Montleban was one of the few humans sympathetic to the plight of future apes, believing their rise to be destined. In Conquest, their father/son relationship is disrupted by violence and Caesar is thrown into a prison for apes, so that’s all the good destiny does. What’s funny here, though, is that Rise is actually a loose remake of Conquest, meaning James Franco essentially filled Montleban’s role. At no other point would anybody consider these two for the same part?
A New Future Where Apes and Humans… Pray Together?
The last film in the original series, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, has been loosely re-made through Dawn; and now War looks to be riffing on it a bit, too. Though, we don’t expect War to have as happy an ending. Yes, even though Battle hints at a dystopic circular timeline, its last scene still shows human and ape children in class together, hearing lessons handed down from the “Law Giver” (who’s finally been revealed as Caesar). For a time, peace has been achieved. Who’d ever expect an even slightly uplifting ending from an Apes movie?
Any ape enthusiasts here? What are your favorite moments from the series? Share you preferences in the talkback, why not?
Image Credits: 20th Century Fox