Will Disney’s New ‘Planet of the Apes’ Movie Be a Complete Reboot?

Movie reboots are hard to pull off, especially when you’re dealing with a devoted fan base. So it’s a miracle that Rise of the Planet of the Apes so cleverly reinvented the Planet of the Apes franchise in 2011. By telling the story of the initial ape uprising, the film deconstructed the series as much as it restarted it.

Of course, that Rupert Wyatt-directed film had the advantage of using motion-capture technology to bring its simian characters to life. In Rise and its two sequels, Andy Serkis delivered remarkable performances as ape revolutionary Caesar. Now Disney is prepping a new film in the Planet of the Apes franchise.

Andy Serkis at the New York premiere of 'War for the Planet Of The Apes' | Ben Gabbe/Getty Images
Andy Serkis at the New York premiere of ‘War for the Planet Of The Apes’ | Ben Gabbe/Getty Images

The ‘Maze Runner’ director is taking over

With Disney’s acquisition of Fox, the Mouse House assumes ownership over more than 80 years of cinema history. That includes franchises like Avatar, Alien, Home Alone, and yes, Planet of the Apes. The Hollywood Reporter recently revealed Planet of the Apes will be the first major Fox property dusted off and retooled by Disney.

Wes Ball — the filmmaker behind the Maze Runner trilogy — will direct the new film. That makes sense, since that series also involves a dystopian sci-fi future. Ball was also previously attached to direct Disney’s Mouse Guard, prior to that project’s cancellation.

Aside from Ball’s involvement, Fox hasn’t revealed any other details about the film. So we don’t know whether the next Planet of the Apes will follow the original 1970s films, continue the 2010s trilogy, or begin a new story entirely. After all, the franchise has been something of a mixed bag over the years.

The spotty history of ‘Planet of the Apes’

The 1968 original film — which stars Charlton Heston as an astronaut who crash-lands on the titular world — was a cultural phenomenon. Its incisive social commentary and mind-blowing twist ending helped shape the next few decades of science fiction. It also spawned four sequels, all of which were box office successes.

Following the conclusion of the films, CBS launched a short-lived live-action series in 1974. After that failure, NBC tried an animated version of Planet of the Apes, which also ran just one season. For more than a decade thereafter, fans were left with little new Planet of the Apes content, aside from some comics in the 1990s.

Then Tim Burton’s “reimagining” hit theaters in 2001. Although the film was a box office hit, it was not warmly received by fans or critics, both of whom considered it the final nail in the series’ coffin. That was the case until a decade later when Rise surprised everyone by reinvigorating the franchise.

Why continuing the current story is best

Although Disney/Fox hasn’t made any announcements, the studio would be better off picking the story up from Matt Reeves’ 2017 release War for the Planet of the Apes. That film not only left a literal world of new possibilities but provided a clean break for the story’s focus to shift.

With its sci-fi subtext and simian leads, the Planet of the Apes series is — as history has shown — a tricky one to get right. Serkis, Wyatt, and Reeves cracked the code in a way few fans thought possible. If anything, the stage has now been set for the series to hew a bit closer to the ape society captured in the original films.

Sure, Fox could roll the dice again, but there’s literally no reason to do so. Make a significant time jump following War, and give Ball the freedom to put his stamp on the franchise from that point forward. Anything else risks squandering all the audience goodwill Planet of the Apes has built up in the last decade. That’s one twist no one wants to see.