This summer has been a decidedly mixed one for the big blockbuster cinema releases, but one film that has definitely succeeded in bringing people into cinemas is War for the Planet of the Apes. The latest film in one of Hollywood’s most enduring franchises, it was released one year before the 50-year anniversary of the series’ first film. Let’s take a look at how the franchise developed and expanded during that five-decade period.
Planet of the Apes Original Film Series
Pierre Boulles, a writer from France, published La Planete des Singes in 1963 – and it was this novel that inspired the first Planet of the Apes movie five years later. The film told the story of a group of astronauts who travelled to a distant planet, only to discover that it was ruled by apes, and found themselves enslaved.
Combining fantastical science fiction with nuclear war critique, it was a huge success with both critics and the public, leading to an inevitable sequel. The next five years produced four more films, with the first – Beneath the Planet of the Apes, which retained Rod Serling as writer – being the best. This made $17,489,009 at the box office, having cost just $3,000,000 to make, but the series gradually ran out of steam, culminating in the relative flop, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, in 1973.
Apes Remake in 2001
The franchise was not seen in cinemas for three decades after that, but a new version finally got off the ground in 2001 – a remake of the original. Hopes were high, as it was being directed by the imaginative Tim Burton, but the results were disappointing, both critically and commercially. Despite praise for the standard of the special effects, there was criticism that the film relied too heavily on them and replaced the intelligence of the original with mindless action and adventure.
Planet of the Apes New Reboot
After another decade-long gap, the series was rebooted again in 2011, with Rise of the Planet of the Apes. This reimagined the whole universe, starting with an origin story of a genetically-enhanced chimpanzee raised by a human family who begins to question the place of apes within that society.
It was a box office and critical hit and has so far spawned two follow-ups: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) and War For the Planet of the Apes (2017) – with the most recent again being praised by film fans and critics for recapturing the intelligence and seriousness of the original film.
The first attempts to expand the franchise beyond the cinema were two television spin-offs from the mid-1970s – Planet of the Apes and the animated Return to the Planet of the Apes. Both were cancelled early in their runs, although they can be seen as a forerunner of what the likes of Marvel is now doing. The new reboot series is also set to bring spin-offs into other media, with a Planet of the Apes online slot machine being a good example. With audiences now expecting this sort of expansion, it stands more chance of being a success.
We have already been told by Fox, the studio that makes the films, that a fourth film spinning off from the main story will be made. Next year’s anniversary would be the ideal time for them to release more details about this.