Friday, November 04, 2011

Apes Sequel Rises

When I spoke with Rise of the Planet of the Apes writers/producers Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver last August, the pair was coy about sequel possibilities for Fox's prequel/reboot project, saying no serious discussions had taken place on the subject. Well, the notion of sequelizing Rise took a big a step forward from abstract concept to concrete reality with word of star Andy Serkis, whose motion-captured performance as lead chimp Caesar is the unquestionable centerpiece of the film, signing on for one or more sequels in a deal that will net the Once and Future Gollum a cool seven figures. Also locked in are director Rupert Wyatt and Jaffa & Silver. Notably not locked in are human stars James Franco and Freida Pinto (which, assuming they won't be back, makes me wonder why they didn't just stick with the original ending after all).

Given the franchise's history, I have no doubt an Apes sequel was on the filmmakers' and studio's radar the minute development on Rise began (thus the sequel clauses for the key creatives), but the positive word-of-mouth from critics and auds and a much better-than-expected global tally of $450+ mil and counting prove there's an audience that actually wants to see what happens next on the Monkey Planet (as opposed to the collective shrug that greeted the equally-successful Tim Burton redo in '01). I've already stated my hope that the filmmakers don't go anywhere near the idea of remaking the Heston original, which they agreed with me on, and the early signing of Serkis is a good indication that any sequel(s) will continue the focus on Caesar and the ape revolution, with the plague-driven downfall of humanity either intertwined or playing in parallel.

In terms of what narrative ground I'd like to see them cover, the fifth film in the original Apes cycle, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, for as flawed as I thought it was, had at its center the notion of the apes' loss of innocence -- playing a variation on the Cain & Abel story. I see potential for the next Rise installment to sound similar chords, and more successfully, by giving us a deeper insight into Caear's (pun unintentional) evolution into a military figure. The question I asked back in August was, given his portrayal as a more (pun also unintentional) humanistic leader, and given where we know this whole "Planet of the Apes" thing ends up (Chuck Heston being chased through the cornfield by gorillas on horseback), whether Caear's story is destined to be a tragic one where he fails in his goal of human-ape cooperation. With the pieces being lined up to address that question in earnest, we may be getting an answer soon -- and we may not like what we find.

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