Fan Theory: How the new Planet of the Apes movies connect to the originals

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

It’s been difficult trying to decipher just how the hell the new PLANET OF THE APES series fit in relation to the originals. I mean, are they prequels? Sequels? Remakes? Reboots? The dreaded re-imaginings?

Well, I’m here to tell you that they are in fact related to the originals, and that all the discrepancies in continuity aren’t really discrepancies at all. Let me explain:

Thing is, if you’re not aware of the original five films that spanned from 1968-73, in the second movie – BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES – they straight up blew up the planet of the apes (which is SPOILERS actually Earth). This was caused because Charlton Heston, who played the main character Taylor in the first film, didn’t want do the sequel unless two requests were met: a) he only filmed a glorified cameo, and b) he got to blow up the planet so no more sequels could happen. This, however, left the producers in a pickle when that film also became a success. Their solution? Fucking time-travel.

This leads us to ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES, where two of the main characters from the first one – married chimp scientists Cornelius and Zira – took an old spaceship and retrofitted it to escape the explosion from the previous film, which somehow led to them traveling to 1970s Earth (don't question it). In this timeline (we’ll call it the “Escape Timeline”), Cornelius and Zira became international celebrities, and are actually welcomed by humans initially. Things turns dark, however, when it’s revealed they’re from a future where humans blow each other up and are subjugated by super-intelligent apes. They are then shot down to prevent that by paranoid humans, but not before Zira gives birth to a baby boy…named Caesar.

Now, let’s back up. That name, Caesar, sounds familiar right? Well, if you’ve seen the new films starting from RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES up to the upcoming WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, you know that's the name of the main ape played magnificently by Andy Serkis. But how can that be? To clear things up, we have to now talk about how the new films, starting with RISES, are actually part of the “Prime Timeline” that leads straight to the ’68 original and the downer sequel BENEATH, while ESCAPES starts the aforementioned tangent “Escape Timeline” that the next two sequels – CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES and BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES – follow.

With me so far?

Now, how do we know this textually? Well, the biggest clue is we see news reports in RISES about Captain Taylor (Charlton Heston’s character in the original) in his ship the Icarus, which is later reported to be "lost in space" (in the original, a wormhole takes them to the future). There’s even footage of a digitally de-aged Heston in an astronaut suit during one of the reports! Meaning, these films are definitely heading to the world we see in the ’68 film. And the fact that the events don’t sync up with the final two sequels are easily explained by time travel nonsense. For instance, Cornelius and Zira travel explicitly to the ‘70s (the date is name-dropped in the film itself), which means that while James Franco and everyone else in RISES were trying to make intelligent apes of their own, they would've been aware of (and probably mentioned) those other intelligent apes that were on magazine covers four decades ago. However, in the "Prime Timeline" that RISES takes place in, Cornelius and Zira never traveled in time, so Franco is unaware of where his hubris will eventually lead.

But why are both “ape messiah” characters in each timeline named Caesar then? Well, it’s for the same reason you might know people or have friends and family members named Mohammed or Jesus. It makes sense that if Caeser is indeed a well-known ape from the past (it must also be noted that Cornelius and Zira are originally from the year 3978), then they could have easily named their son after him for that reason.

Finally, at the end of the “Escape Timeline”, there is actually hope of peace that unfortunatley won’t occur in this new series (because we, you know, have to “blow it all to hell”). See, the last film in the original “Escape Timeline” sequels – BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES – is told in flashback. It then ends with peace being reached between Caesar’s apes and the humans, before the first PotA film happens (and it's a peace that's apparently been going on for centuries). This means, that after ESCAPE, there was an opportunity for peace that “Prime” Caeser from these new films (which, again, leads directly to the ‘68 film) tragically won’t ever get to experience.

And to help back up my theory, here’s this recent interview with director Matt Reeves, where he said: “future conflicts in this [film series]…takes us toward the '68 movie.” So it seems this isn’t just speculation on my part. Expect nuclear weapons and the destruction of the Statue of Liberty in an upcoming sequel for sure!  

So do you Schmoes agree, disagree, or have any theories of your own? Either way, sound off below!


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