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5 Classic Apes Themes to Watch for in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

5 Classic Apes Themes to Watch for in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

20th Century Fox

This Friday the most American tradition of them all returns: talking monkeys riding horses. With Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the re-imagined apesverse is leaping into the near future, meaning a full-on war between humans and apes is brewing. But the origins of a planet run by apes comes from the French novel by Pierre Boulle called La Planète des singes plus the five American films released from 1968 through 1973. Ahead of the release of Dawn, here are some classic apes thoughts to check out in preparation.

Caesar Wants to Keep the Peace

Most of the trailers for Dawn show the original talking ape—Caesar—trying to keep the peace between apes and humans, and there’s a precedent for that. In Battle for the Planet of the Apes, the main goal of that version of Caesar is to try and make amends with the human race and eventually live in peace.

But the Apes Also are Going to Go on a Crazy Rampage First

The entirety of the film Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is a full on Gorilla and Ape riot. If you want to see the movie where the apes truly rise up and take down their masters, this is the one. Controversially, this movie had two different endings: one in which Caesar lets his followers kill a human and one in which he lets a human live. The theatrical release was the less violent ending, but in two weeks we’ll see what direction this new iteration goes in.

A Virus that Wipes Out… Cats and Dogs?

At the end of 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes it’s made painfully clear that humans are going to start getting sick (and possible wiped-out) by the “simian flu.” While this might seem like a convenient plot device invented for the new movies, this is actually borrowed a little bit from both Escape of the Planet of the Apes and Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. In those movies, its revealed cats and dogs randomly all died out, putting apes in a position to be the new household pets of people, which in turn, puts them in a position to take over the planet. We know. We know. But this is what really happens in the old movies. There’s even a statue commemorating the fallen cats and dogs.

An End of the World Cult

In Beneath the Planet of the Apes, it’s revealed there are a whole bunch of disfigured humans living beneath the Earth who worship a nuclear missile as a deity. (Did we mention all the Apes movies are awesomely bizarre?) Now, this might not seem to have a whole lot to do with the new movie, but Dawn of the Planet of the Apes does seem to posit an enclave a rag-tag humans hiding out away from the world. If it turns out these folks have a nuclear option, well, let’s hope they don’t blow up the whole world like a certain famous actor in the old movies.

Working the Plot Forward Instead of Reverse

The new apes movies are (so far) having major world-changing plot points unfold in a linear, straightforward way. But the old movies do it like this: establish the planet of the apes (which is in the future) revisit it (also the future) and then flashback to the present to show how said planet of the apes rose/dawned in the first place. These new movies are doing a slow-burn, and build-up to, possible, a pay-off of a whole planet just totally run by apes. But the original movies not only jumped around in time, they also featured time-travel. Depending on how Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ends, it might be possible the movie which follows this one will feature a completely different time period all together. Either way, the idea that a sequel to one apes movie is followed by another one with totally different characters and arguably a fantastically different setting is all part of the proud apes tradition.

Are you pumped for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes? Do you have a favorite classic Apes movie?

Tags: movies, classic movies, planet of the apes, dawn of the planet of the apes, rise of the planet of the apes, vinrtage

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About the Author
Ryan Britt

Ryan Britt is the author of Luke Skywalker Can't Read and Other Geeky Truths, forthcoming from Plume (Penguin) Books on 11.24.15. He's written for The New York Times, Electric Literature, The Awl, VICE Motherboard, Clarkesworld Magazine, and is a consulting editor for Story Magazine. He lives in New York City.

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