'Rise of the Planet of the Apes': A Film Evolution

WETA Digital

Compare plots, box office, visuals and cheese factors of seven "Planet of the Apes" films.

With Friday's release of the newest Planet of the Apes movie, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Hollywood Reporter looks back at the origins of the successful franchise. Through its 30-plus-year run, the Apes movies managed to attract talent such as Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Sal Mineo, Ricardo Montalban and more recently, Mark Wahlberg and Helena Bonham Carter. Besides the feature films, there were also a number of made-for-television projects that spawned from the series,


The first Planet of the Apes movie was released on February 8, 1968. It was directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and starred Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Linda Harrison and Kim Hunter. In the film, Colonel George Taylor (played by Heston) and his crew come out of hibernation in the future to find they have crash landed on a planet where apes are dominant. They have learned how to speak and how to use technology whereas men are an uncivilized species with no language. The Fox-distributed film grossed more than $32 million domestically. 


Beneath the Planet of the Apes debuted two years later on May 27, 1970 and had a domestic total gross of just under $19 million dollars. Hunter and Harrison reprise their roles as Zira and Nova in this sequel. The film also featured James Franciscus and Maurice Evans. It was directed by Ted Post. The movie focuses on a rescue mission for Colonel Taylor (Heston) led by Brent (Franciscus) who discovers a group of telepathic mutated humans who live below the city and worship a "doomsday" bomb. An epic battle between the apes and humans take place at the end of the film and the bomb is set off by a dying Taylor. 


The third movie in the series, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, was released on May 21, 1971. Directed by Don Taylor, the film again starred McDowall and Hunter as well as Bradford Dillman and Sal Mineo. After the destruction of their planet in the last film, Zira, Cornelius and Dr. Milo (Mineo) return to the 20th century in Taylor's spaceship. They are soon fearful for their lives when suspicions arise from the President's scientific advisor after Zira is found to be pregnant. Though Zira and Cornelius die at the end of the film, their baby Milo (later named Caesar) is born and lives on. The film grossed a little more than $12 million dollars domestically. 



Conquest of the Planet of the Apes came out on June 14, 1972 and made considerably less money than the previous films, taking in a gross of around $9 million dollars. McDowall who previously played Cornelius in both the 1st and 3rd Apes movies is now back playing Caesar. The film also stars Don Murray and Ricardo Montalban and was directed by J. Lee Thompson. With cats and dogs having gone extinct in 1983 due to a disease, humans have begun to take apes as pets. Soon, the apes are seen as slaves. Zira and Cornelius' son Caesar leads the apes in a revolution against the humans.



May 23, 1973, the fifth movie of the series, Battle for the Planet of the Apes was released. J. Lee Thompson returned for directing duties on the project. McDowall reprised his role as Caesar and Claude Akins and Natalie Trundy also starred. Caesar, leader of the apes would like there to be peace between the apes and the enslaved humans. However, not all the apes think this way. Gorilla General Aldo (Akins) and warring human factions want war and as the title suggest a battle ensues. In the end, hundreds of years later, the humans and apes have learned to coexist. 

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Tim Burton put his spin on Planet of the Apes in 2001. While not a critical success, the film grossed approximately $180 million domestically. Helena Bonham Carter, Mark Wahlberg, Paul Giamatti, Tim Roth and Michael Clarke Duncan starred in the film.  Like Taylor in the first film, Astronaut Leo Davidson (Wahlberg) is taken through the space time continium and finds himself on a planet where apes rule over the humans. With help from the rebels and Ari, a sympathetic chimpanzee, they race to a sacred temple where the secrets of mankind reside in the Forbidden Zone. 


The most recent addition to the Planet of the Apes brand, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, is directed by Rupert Wyatt and stars James Franco, Andy Serkis and Freida Pinto. The story is set in present day San Francisco and is by far the most technologically advanced, realistic film of the franchise. Franco plays Will Rodman, a scientist using apes to look for a cure to Alzheimer's Disease. However, the tests he conducts gives the apes the intelligence to fight the humans for power. The film is expected to top the box office this weekend as it's already off to a strong start. 

FILM REVIEW: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

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