The fantasy film Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, which is coming to the big screens, is the fourth part of the reboot of the Planet of the Apes franchise, and in general, the tenth film about the confrontation between humans and intelligent apes. And it all started with a thin French book, the author of which did not consider this work to be his great achievement at all.


La Planète des singes

Media science fiction novel

Year 1963

The entire Planet of the Apes: from the original French novel to the modern media franchise
Location design sketch for the movie Planet of the Apes (1968)

It all started with the visit of the French writer Pierre Boulle to the zoo. The Ukrainian Wikipedia spells the name of the author of The Planet of the Apes as Bul, while the latest Ukrainian translation of the novel by the Boрdan Publishing House spells it as Boulle, and we choose the book version. Pierre watched the gorillas and was struck by how similar their expressions were to those of humans.

“I was amazed by their almost human expressions. It made me imagine what a relationship between a human and an ape would look like. Some people think I wrote my book with King Kong in mind, but that’s completely wrong,” Pierre Bull said in an interview.

The novel Planet of the Apes was created in six months, with the first manuscript being more fantastical and the second more adventurous, heavily influenced by eighteenth- and nineteenth-century fantasy travel novels, particularly Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift.

At the time of writing The Planet of the Apes, Pierre Boulle was already a world-famous writer. He became famous for his novel Le Pont de la rivière Kwaï (1952), which partially described Bull’s personal experience during World War II, when he was captured in Indochina. For his exploits during the war, Pierre Boulle received the Legion of Honor, the Military Cross, and the Medal of Resistance, and the novel The Bridge on the River Kwai was filmed in 1957 by David Lean and won 7 (!) Oscars, including Best Picture. Boulle won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, partly because the two original screenwriters who adapted the novel were on the Hollywood Blacklist, which included Soviet Union sympathizers and members of the US Communist Party (a good idea, actually!). As of now, the film The Bridge on the River Kwai is currently ranked 171st on’s 250 Greatest Movies of All Time.

Planet of the Apes / Планета мавп
Cover of the Ukrainian translation of the novel Planet of the Apes, 2023

So Boulle himself did not consider The Planet of the Apes to be a great work. It was a kind of literary experiment, the story of astronauts from 1972 who, due to relativistic time dilation, found themselves in 3978 on a planet dominated by apes, while humans remained unintelligent animals. But this work was destined for a great future.

Despite the novel’s rather simple adventure structure, it touches on many interesting topics. Animal rights activists will find here calls for the inadmissibility of animal experimentation, and social justice activists will find anti-racist statements. There are also anti-war and anti-totalitarian slogans, and some people even consider the monkey society a kind of paraphrase on George Orwell’s 1984. Ukrainians, on the other hand, will see the apes, who cannot create anything of their own but only try to steal people’s history and inventions and drive them into a reservation, as an allusion to the Russians and the Russian invasion. So, despite Boulle’s own skepticism about The Planet of the Apes, it’s a pretty interesting work.


Planet of the Apes

Media science fiction novel

Year 1968

The novel Planet of the Apes came to the attention of producer Arthur P. Jacobs almost by accident. Boulle’s literary agent, Alain Bernheim, wanted to suggest that Jacobs adapt one of the novels by the young and popular French writer Françoise Sagan, but remembered that Jacobs had once said, “I wish King Kong didn’t exist, then I’d make it.” Bergen had a potential new King Kong, Jacobs had a desire to make science fiction, and one of the most famous film franchises of the XX-XXI centuries was born.

Due to budgetary constraints, the novel was simplified for the film adaptation, removing the beginning and making the ape society less advanced than in the book. In addition, the ending, which takes place on Earth in the movie, was significantly changed. But this was only to the film’s advantage, and the last shots of Planet of the Apes became canonical.

The main role of the astronaut (not a journalist, as in the novel) George Taylor was played by Oscar-winning Charlton Heston, the star of Ben-Hur (1959), and directed by the future Oscar winner Franklin J. Scheffner. Planet of the Apes itself was nominated for two Academy Awards – for Jerry Goldsmith’s avant-garde 12-tone music and for Best Costume Design, but the honorary Oscar for the film went to John Chambers, the creator of the truly amazing ape makeup.

With an estimated budget of $5.8 million, Planet of the Apes grossed a fairly good $33.3 million at the box office, which was quite good for the time: A Space Odyssey by Kubrick (which grossed over $140 million), which was released the same year, was difficult, but the film brought the studio almost $21 million in profit. Naturally, the producers wanted to see a sequel.

In 2001, Planet of the Apes was added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress as a “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant work”.


Beneath the Planet of the Apes

Media science fiction movie

Year 1970

Work on the sequel to Beneath the Planet of the Apes began just 2 months after the premiere of Planet of the Apes, when it became clear that the movie had paid off. Unfortunately, director Franklin J. Scheffner was busy filming Patton (1970), which won him an Oscar, and actor Charlton Heston was not interested in the sequel and agreed to appear in only a few scenes where his character is killed. The actor donated his fee to charity, and the lead role went to James Francis, who played a new character.

Pierre Boulle did not write a sequel to Planet of the Apes, so the plot of the film was entirely on the conscience of the screenwriters, and they… made a mistake. The story of an underground community of supermutant humans who worship the atomic bomb was already nonsense without any hidden subtext other than a very obvious anti-war one. The critics panned Beneath the Planet of the Apes, the second lowest-rated film in the franchise.

However, with a very limited budget of $3.4 million (all the masks, makeup, costumes, and some of the sets already existed), it grossed almost $19 million at the box office, so they decided to continue the franchise.


Escape from the Planet of the Apes

Media science fiction movie

Year 1971

The screenwriter of the second part, Paul Dane, continued to work on the franchise, and in general became the main writer of all five films of the original pentology. Escape from the Planet of the Apes was filmed with an even smaller budget and in a great hurry, and was released exactly one year after Beneath the Planet of the Apes.

In this movie, the apes from the planet of the apes, the same characters from the first movie, Dr. Zira and Dr. Cornelius, will find themselves on the Earth of the twentieth century. This was a fairly common technique in science fiction cinema of the 1960s and 1980s, as evidenced by the constant time travel in the Star Trek series and films, particularly in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1984).

At first, human society accepts the intelligent apes favorably, but then begins to fear that Zira’s pregnancy could lead to the emergence of a new dominant race.

Escape from the Planet of the Apes was received much better than the previous film, with critics drawing attention to the film’s powerful anti-racist subtext. It was the 1970s, the time of the civil rights movement and Black Power.

With a budget of $2.5 million (no sets on Earth, much fewer costumes), the film grossed $12 million at the box office. More modest than the previous ones, but still 5 times more than the cost. Planet of the Apes was treated as a big franchise, so the sequel was not long in coming.


Conquest of the Planet of the Apes

Media science fiction movie

Year 1972

The fourth installment, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, which was also released a year later, received an even smaller budget of only $1.7 million. Dane remained the screenwriter, and the British John Lee Thompson, known for The Guns of Navarone (1961), was invited to direct.

Conquest is the story of Caesar, the son of Zira and Cornelius, and the uprising of the apes, whom humans have made their slaves and kept in labor camps (the franchise will return to this story in the 21st century). The movie takes place after 1983.

In the fourth film, the emphasis on racial confrontation is intensified, and the authors were inspired by real events of the 1960s, such as the Watts (Los Angeles) uprising in August 1965. The people in the film are shown as Nazis, even with similar attributes of uniforms, and the monkeys as black Americans.

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes received worse reviews than Escape, and the box office continued to fall, with the film grossing only $9 million, which is again almost five times the amount of money invested. So the studio and producer decided to quickly release another installment.


Battle for the Planet of the Apes

Media science fiction movie

Year 1973

The final installment of the original pentology received a meager budget of $1.2 million, and the authors knew that it was the last film in the series. Due to both of these factors, Battle for the Planet of the Apes slipped into outright trash.

The film continues the story of Caesar and the confrontation between humans and apes for power on Earth, but… here the mutants from the dungeon from the second part suddenly return to the script. No time jump, just like that.

Battle turned out to be frankly weak, the film received mostly negative reviews, and still remains the worst film in the series, but it collected its $8.8 million. It seemed like the end of the franchise, but television came to the rescue.


Planet of the Apes

Media science fiction TV series

Year 1974

A TV show based on the Planet of the Apes films was conceived in 1971, but postponed until the release of the last film in the original pentology. In general, it repeats the story of the book and the first movie in 1968, but adds more events and encounters as the characters travel through the ruins of the United States to the Earth of the future. According to the franchise’s chronology, the series takes place 10 years after the events of the first movie and features a different crew that fell into the same space-time anomaly.

Interestingly, the role of the chimpanzee Galen in the series is played by the same actor Roddy McDowell, who played Cornelius and Caesar in various films of the franchise. The Planet of the Apes TV show was released on CBS in 1974, with 14 episodes lasting 50 minutes in a single season. The budget for each episode was $250 thousand, which was a lot at the time. Due to poor ratings, the last episode was not even aired, although the general consensus is that the series is better than the last films in the original pentology.

In 1980, five television movies were made out of 14 episodes: Back to the Planet of the Apes; Forgotten City of the Planet of the Apes; Treachery and Greed on the Planet of the Apes; Life, Liberty and Pursuit on the Planet of the Apes; Farewell to the Planet of the Apes. In addition, several novelizations and comic books have been published based on the series.


Return to the Planet of the Apes

Media science fiction animated television series

Year 1975-1976

The animated series Return to the Planet of the Apes was released after the moderate success of Star Trek: The Animated Series (1973-1974) from the same NBC and even has a similar style and character animation.

The plot of the show is almost the same as the first movie, but each episode is a separate story. The animated series borrows characters from the films, as there are the same Zira, Cornelius, Zeus, Brent and Nova as in the original Planet of the Apes, plus characters from the 1974 TV series, such as General Urko.

The series was criticized for its low quality, did not get the ratings it needed, and was canceled after the first season, which had 13 episodes of 24 minutes each. The second season of three episodes, which was supposed to end the story, was never filmed. The Planet of the Apes franchise has not been forgotten, but a new movie was released only 25 years later.


Planet of the Apes

Media science fiction movie

Рік 2001

Fox tried to return to Planet of the Apes back in the late 1980s, but the new film fell into production hell. Originally, the new film was supposed to be directed by a young independent filmmaker, Adam Rifkin, and he wanted to create an alternative sequel to the very first Planet of the Apes that would ignore the plots of the other four films. According to Rifkin’s version, a descendant of Taylor and Nova would have to rise up in the spirit of Spartacus’ rebellion against the domination of the apes. The script was rewritten several times and eventually thrown in the trash.

Then Oliver, may he rest in peace, Stone took over the film and chose Terry Hayes, the screenwriter of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, as the screenwriter. Here, scientists from Earth would travel back in time to find a cure for a genetic disease that was actually created by an advanced ape civilization. The main role was planned for Arnold Schwarzenegger. It didn’t work out.

The next to join the project was Chris Columbus (Home Alone 1/2, Harry Potter 1/2). The new script featured both spaceflight and the planet of the apes, as well as a virus that the astronauts had to find a cure for. Arnold Schwarzenegger was supposed to play the main role. But Columbus was forced to leave the project due to family reasons, and James Cameron, who was planned to take his place and had his own plans for the remake, never had time to work on Planet of the Apes. He was prevented from doing so by the commercial success of Titanic (1997).

Finally, in 1999, Fox received a script that satisfied them and brought in visionary director Tim Burton to create the film, setting him rather strict requirements for the release date, but allocating as much as $100 million for the film.

Mark Wahlberg played the lead role of astronaut Leo Davidson, who tries to save his chimpanzee partner (by the way, there was a chimpanzee on the spaceship in Bull’s novel) but finds himself on a planet inhabited by apes in a different time. Actually, the 2001 Planet of the Apes featured an all-star cast. Here are Kris Kristofferson, Tim Roth (General Ted, Davidson’s main opponent), Burton’s favorite and later wife Helena Bonham Carter, the famous black actor Michael Clarke Duncan, and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa.

The cast was good, but it didn’t help; the movie was met with a cautious reception. Planet of the Apes 2001 grossed $362 million against a budget of $100 million, meaning it paid for itself, but without much profit, but the ratings were devastating. The 2001 film has the worst ratings after Battle for the Planet of the Apes and Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Rotten Tomatoes – 44%, Metacritics – 50/100. The new movie was even compared to B movies and called unworthy of the original series. And this is despite a powerful advertising campaign, special programs and promotions, merchandise, comics, and even a game (actually a nightmare) from Visiware and Ubi Soft.

The originally planned sequel was canceled after Tim Burton said he would rather jump out the window than return to the franchise. But Fox hasn’t forgotten about Planet of the Apes.


Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Media science fiction movie

Year 2011

The script for the new film, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which was supposed to be a reboot of the series, was ready in 2005, but filming began only 5 years later. The only thing that remained of Bull’s original idea was intelligent apes and their confrontation with humans. The events take place on Earth in our time and partially repeat the events of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972). Caesar is here again, but he is not the son of Zira and Cornelius, who came from the future, but an ordinary chimpanzee, improved by modern biotechnology. Plus, the new film features a human-deadly virus from Chris Columbus’ concept for the 2001 Planet of the Apes reboot.

Unlike the previous films, makeup was no longer used, it was time for CGI. The main role, Caesar the chimpanzee, in this and the next two films was played by the master of transformation Andy Serkis, who received a lot of awards and positive reviews for this role. Fox even tried to nominate Serkis for an Oscar for the lead role, but the academics didn’t get the joke.

In general, critics and audiences alike greeted Rise of the Planet of the Apes very positively. The film received good reviews, second only to the original Planet of the Apes, and grossed $481 million at the box office. Immediately after the first box office results, Fox began planning a sequel.


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Media science fiction movie

Year 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes continues the story of Caesar and his family 10 years after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Almost all humans on earth have died out from the “monkey flu,” and the remnants are trying to find common ground with the ape colony led by Caesar. But the conflict is unavoidable.

Fox allocated an amazing $170 million for the production of the film, which made it possible to invite such stars as Gary Oldman and Jason Clarke. Andy Serkis, of course, returned to the role of Caesar. Cloverfield director Matt Reeves took the director’s chair. In addition, a significant portion of the money was spent on visual effects.

The CGI was done by the New Zealand studio Wētā FX, the same one that worked on the first part of the reboot, as well as on such famous films as Lord of the Rings, Avatar, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. By the way, the studio is owned by director Peter Jackson, whose first work for Wētā FX was Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures (1994), which earned him his first Oscar nomination.

In fact, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was also nominated for an Oscar for special effects, but lost to Martin Scorsese’s Hugo. Again, Andy Serkis, who knows how to bring computer characters to life, received a bunch of nominations, but not the Academy Awards.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes set a record for the franchise, earning over $710 million at the box office. The movie also has very good ratings: Rotten Tomatoes – 91%, Metacritic – 79/100. Development of the next installment began even before the release of Dawn.


War for the Planet of the Apes

Media science fiction movie

Year 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes (1973) is the next Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) of a healthy man and the end of Caesar’s new story.

The movie takes place 2 years after the events of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The apes continue to live in the forest in northern California, when suddenly they are attacked again by humans, this time heavily armed and trained. As it turns out, the surviving soldiers have been searching for Caesar for a long time and want to destroy him.

Matt Reeves remained the director, and the special effects were done by the same Wētā FX. Andy Serkis reprises his role as Caesar, and the apes’ main enemy, Colonel McCullough, is played by the charismatic Woody Harrelson.

Interestingly, while writing the script and filming, the creators were inspired by… The Bridge on the River Kwai based on the novel by the same Pierre Bull and The Great Escape, as well as Empire Strikes Back and… Apocalypse Now. Woody Harrelson’s character looks a hell of a lot like Colonel Kurtz played by Marlon Brando.

With a budget of $150 million, War for the Planet of the Apes grossed $490 million, less than the first film in the reboot, but the reviews were extremely positive: Rotten Tomatoes – 94%, Metacritic – 82/100. These are the highest scores for the franchise. The Oscar was once again not given, but the visual effects and Andy Serkis again collected a bunch of awards.


Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes

Media science fiction movie

Year 2024

Caesar’s story ended in War for the Planet of the Apes, and the new movie, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, is more about Caesar’s legacy and brings us closer to the world we know from the first films in the franchise and Pierre Bull’s book. Moreover, a new, feral human girl returns to the franchise.

In the Kingdom world, apes are once again hunting humans who have lost their own civilization. But the monkeys themselves are not technologically savvy and live on the ruins of former human buildings. Of course, there is a rebel monkey who tries to find out what it used to be like and protects humans.

The new movie has a new director, Wes Ball, known only for the rather mediocre The Maze Runner series, and a completely new cast. Noah, the young chimpanzee, is played by Owen Teague (It and It Chapter Two), Nova/Maya is played by Freya Allan, Ciri from The Witcher series. Special effects were again created by Wētā FX, using technologies that were tested on Avatar: The Way of Water (2022).

The film’s budget was $160-165 million and Fox hopes to launch a new Planet of the Apes trilogy with these characters. At least there is a very thick hint of a sequel at the end of the movie.


Planet of the Apes games

Media video games
Years 2003-2018

The Planet of the Apes franchise has not been very lucky with games. The first game based on the movie, Revenge of the Apes, was developed for the Atari 2600 back in 1983, but after the big video game market crash that year, 20th Century Fox closed its game division. It was only in 2003 that the Retrodesign studio dug up and revived Revenge of the Apes. It is unlikely to be of interest to anyone but video game archaeologists.

The next project, Planet of the Apes (2001), was supposed to be remade with Mark Wahlberg. However, Visiware and Ubi Soft failed to make it in time for the premiere and the game itself turned out to be very weak. Both the PC and PlayStation versions were very different in terms of gameplay and developers, as well as the Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance versions.

The games were forgotten until 2014, when the monkey virus from the movie was added to the popular virus simulator Plague Inc. as part of the promo for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

The next game, Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier (2017) for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One was released before the premiere of War for the Planet of the Apes and was supposed to connect the events of the second and third films of the reboot. And as if this interactive story in the spirit of The Walking Dead by Telltale Games with 14 different characters and 19 endings wasn’t a good idea, but… it seems to have been overlooked. If you’re interested, the game is available on Steam.

In 2018, the same Imaginati studio released the VR shooter Crisis on the Planet of the Apes, which also takes place in the interval between Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. And again, it was not meant to be, the ratings are low, the number of players is simply shameful (22 players on Steam at most). After the release, Imaginati ceased to exist.

It seems that Fox has finally realized that they are failing with games, so no game projects are planned for the premiere of Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes.


What’s next?

The Planet of the Apes series falls short of the list of the 20 most successful movie franchises of all time, grossing only $2.1 billion at the box office, compared to $3.3 billion for The Hunger Games, which is 20th on the list. But the Planet of the Apes series is 56 years old and continues to evolve, and something tells us that it will stay with us for a long time, because inter-racial, inter-religious conflicts, rejection of those who are not like you, fear of the unknown will not go away. And what exactly you will see in the films and other works of the franchise depends on your own awareness, because Pierre Bull once put a lot of interesting narratives into this seemingly very simple story.

Enjoy the movie. Feel free to share your impressions of Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes in the comments below this article or in our review of the movie, which will appear tomorrow.