We’ve been following the story of Caesar, a prequel to Planet of the Apes, for almost two years now. We told you that Scott Frank was writing and directing the film, and then we brought you news that he was off the project. But Frank leaving Caesar didn’t kill it dead – the project is alive and well, and in fact tonight Deadline reports that Fox has hired Rupert Wyatt, director of the little seen Sundance film The Escapist (no relation to Kavalier & Klay) to direct from a script by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver.
Now we have some details about the story of Caesar, which is currently called Caesar: Rise of the Apes, and about the tons of little nods to the original movie that Jaffa and Silver have put into their script. And about how it surprisingly ties directly into the original 1968 Planet of the Apes.
Be warned: there are spoilers that follow, although fans of the original five Apes movies will not be too surprised by much of what happens in this film.
Like Scott Frank’s version, Caesar: Rise of the Apes is centered on genetic research. Will is a doctor trying to cure Alzheimers, a disease that afflicts his father. He’s working with monkeys to create a benign virus that can get into brain tissue and restore functionality. After his research is shut down he’s left with just one chimp, the child of his most promising subject, and Will raises him at home. Young Caesar is incredibly intelligent for an ape, and over time he continues to mutate and evolve, looking less like a chimp and moving on from sign language to actual speech. Eventually Caesar ends up leading an army of apes in an uprising just as a catastrophe strikes mankind.
Some points of interest:
– Caesar: Rise of the Apes is explicitly a prequel to the real Planet of the Apes. During the course of the script TV newscasts recount the launch of a space craft called the Icarus, led by a Colonel Taylor, which eventually disappears while going around the dark side of Mars. While these aren’t the exact same situations from the original film, Planet of the Apes had Charlton Heston playing Colonel Taylor whose ship, the Icarus, crash lands on Earth in the distant future.
– The script opens with poachers capturing apes in the wild. The scene is structured to recall the apes capturing humans at the beginning of Planet of the Apes.
– Caesar’s mother is named Bright Eyes, which is what Dr. Zira called Colonel Taylor in the original film.
– As Caesar changes his eyes become green; this reflects the green outfits worn by the chimps in Planet of the Apes.
– In Conquest of the Planet of the Apes Caesar led primitive apes in an uprising against man, and the biggest battle took place on a bridge. The same happens in Caesar: Rise of the Apes, except this time the bridge is the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
– There are other name homages. A female scientist is named Stewart, which was the name of the female Icarus crewmember. Dodge and Landon, also Icarus crewmembers in the original film, appear as names, but in very different roles than in Planet of the Apes. Dodge is a bad guy, in fact. There’s a chimp named Cornelia, a play on Cornelius from the original film, a chimp named Franklin, a play on Apes director Franklin Schaffner, and an orangutan named Maurice, homaging Maurice Evans, who played Dr. Zaius.
– Dodge actually hoses Caesar down in a scene that recalls the ‘It’s a madhouse!’ scene in Planet of the Apes.
– At one point Caesar is sent to a wild animal park and lives in a monkey house. There we see that the original film’s social structure, where chimps, orangutans and gorillas have their own strata, is in place. Caesar manages to unite them all, though.
– By the end of the script humanity’s downfall, which is tied to Caesar’s origin, is in place. Caesar is presented as struggling for freedom, but he’s unwilling to be violent. This makes the ending confused, as the other apes rampage while Caesar behaves non-violently.
– In the original Conquest of the Planet of the Apes Caesar makes the other apes leap forward evolutionarily just by existing. Here there’s a more scientific explanation. Also, Caesar’s slow mutation explains why the apes in Planet of the Apes are bigger than and look nothing like modern chimps, orangutans or gorillas.
– The ending is suitably bleak in a traditional Planet of the Apes way, while leaving a big opening for the next chapter.