The last time a new Planet of the Apes movie hit theaters we took a look at the tie-in novel and short films that were meant to fill in a little of the story between the movies. With the release of War for the Planet of the Apes, we decided it was time to update that list and run through all of the stories that have been released in this iteration of the series. If you want to catch up on the current Apes timeline (or want to know which ones are worth checking out) before going out to see the new movie, this is the list for you.
RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES: PREQUEL (COMICS)
This comic, released in six 5-page installments in the summer of 2011, tells a story about Caesar’s mother, Bright Eyes, and her chimpanzee troop before and after her abduction from the wild and experimentation at the hands of Gen-Sys. It’s a nice little comic, with some fun easter eggs for Apes aficionados (the names of chimpanzees Burke and Verdon will be familiar to fans of the Planet of the Apes television show). But the story walks a line between foreshadowing Rise‘s story and undermining it by positioning Caesar’s eventual awakening and revolt as less of a sui generis event than the fulfillment of the dreams of his mother and her fellow experiment subjects (there are also some nitpicky continuity discrepancies with the film regarding Bright Eyes’s capture and where she got her name). Purely for Apes nuts who want any scrap of story they can get.
RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
Kind of a miracle of a movie. Smart and exciting and gorgeous, Rise looks back to Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (the fourth of the original series) for inspiration and tells the story of the chimpanzee Caesar from infancy through his emergence as a revolutionary.
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES: FIRESTORM
On May 27, 2014, Titan Books published this in-between-quel novel by Greg Keyes to provide backstory and build anticipation for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Set very shortly after the conclusion of Rise, the novel is a Crichton-esque thriller that follows a number of different characters in and around San Francisco (human and ape alike) as the viral plague suggested at the end of the first film becomes a full-blown epidemic. Meanwhile, Caesar struggles to maintain the safety and freedom of his new ape community as a team of mercenaries tracks them in the Muir Woods.
Among the characters the novel follows are:
David Flynn – A reporter, he uncovers the involvement of Will Rodman and Gen Sys in the “monkeygate” scandal and the viral outbreak ravaging the world.
Malakai Youmans – A former ape hunter and mercenary (with a harrowing personal history including a stint as a child soldier), he is hired by a contractor related to Gen Sys to help track down the escaped apes.
Clancy Stoppard – A young primatologist, she is on the same team as Malakai in the search for Caesar and his apes, though her sympathies lie more with the apes than with the hunters.
Talia Kosar – An ER doctor, she has a first-hand view of the beginnings of the plague.
Dreyfus (Gary Oldman’s character in Dawn) – A former Chief of Police and current mayoral candidate, he tries to prevent panic and chaos from overtaking the city. A husband and father of two teenage boys, he is portrayed as a rather decent man trying to do the right thing even at the expense of his political ambitions.
Caesar – The intelligent chimpanzee from Rise, he finds himself having to learn to trust his fellow apes as he shoulders the responsibility of leadership of his community.
Koba – The angry and damaged laboratory chimp that Caesar freed from Gen Sys in Rise, he spends the story grappling with his newfound intelligence (and the history of past mistreatment that it dredges up), as well as trying to balance his respect for Caesar, his responsibility to his community, and his rage toward humans.
As the virus spreads, Keyes weaves in references to its worldwide effects, with societal breakdowns ranging from riots to religious wars flare up. He also introduces intriguing references to a nihilistic cult (identified by the Greek letters Alpha and Omega, in a reference to the Alpha/Omega bomb the mutants worship in Beneath) that begins attacking hospitals and burning parts of the city, seeing the plague as a sign that humanity must be purged. The story ends with the failure of an attempt to capture a live ape and use it to find a cure to the plague, while Caesar and company survive the titular firestorm and escape further into the woods. Indeed, perhaps nothing marks this story as a worthy Apes tale so much as the downbeat ending (and attendant body count, with the vast majority of the human characters dead by novel’s end). This one is well worth reading, both as a gripping story on its own and as fascinating character development for Koba.
BEFORE THE DAWN
In the lead-up to Dawn‘s release, Fox sponsored this series of short films in collaboration with VICE’s online video channel Motherboard. As you might expect, these videos don’t actually feature any apes (they presumably didn’t have a “digital performance-capture character” budget), but they work well as moody table-setters, giving some impressionistic glimpses at the ten years between Rise and Dawn.
Quarantine (Year 1)
Directed By: Isaiah Seret
All Fall Down (Year 5)
Directed By: Daniel Thron
The Gun (Year 10)
Directed By: thirtytwo
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (COMICS)
In late 2014 (after the movie came out) BOOM! Studios published a six issue Dawn prequel series that simultaneously delves into the seeds of discord in Caesar’s newly established ape community and follows Malcolm (Jason Clarke’s character in Dawn)’s harrowing journey with his son and ailing wife through a human world ravaged by the Simian Flu. The ape storyline introduces a scarred chimpanzee named Pope who, when Caesar sends him to lead an mission of exploration into the ruins of San Francisco, subjugates a group of apes that haven’t been altered by the Simian Flu. When word reaches the colony of Pope’s rebellion, Caesar sends Koba to confront him. In the human storyline, Malcolm’s wife, Rita, contracts the plague and the family sets out to find a rumored cure in Austin. On the way, they run afoul of a gang of human traffickers, hook up with a vigilante community, and learn the truth about the supposed cure: it’s a lie used to lure more subjects for testing in the fight against the plague.
The comic is obviously not essential to understanding the film, but it is worthwhile for fans. Just as the Rise prequel comic presents an earlier precursor of some of the events of that film, the ape on ape conflict in the Dawn comic seems to prefigure the film’s story between Caesar and Koba, but its grim conclusion provides some interesting emotional nuance to how their relationship plays out in the film. And the tragedy of Malcolm and Alexander’s backstory in the film is certainly given new dimension by getting to see it as present-tense horror in the comic.
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
The fact that there’s a legitimate debate about whether Rise or Dawn is the better film marks this new Apes series as something special. Dawn trades in Rise‘s sweep and scope for an intimate focus on a particular moment it is easy to imagine being passed over in telling the story of how the world moves on from the one we know to the Planet of the Apes. While War‘s advertising suggests it will depict the final (major) conflict in that transition, Dawn zeroes in on the brief, delicate moment when man and ape could have chosen peace and just how that opportunity was (and maybe had to be?) squandered.
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES: REVELATIONS
This summer, in advance of War‘s release, author Greg Keyes returned to write another in-between-quel novel, this time picking up the action right at the conclusion of Dawn and depicting the immediate aftermath of Koba’s failed revolution and the initial conflict between Caesar’s colony of apes and the military forces of Colonel McCullough (to be played by Woody Harrelson in the new film). With a tighter focus on the characters we already know (and the new ones they encounter on the way), this novel’s scope feels a little less broad than Firestorm‘s, but it also picks up interesting threads from Dawn and the fracture that Koba caused in the ape community, with the gorilla Red, leading a cabal of apes that hopes to take advantage of the looming military conflict to start their own tribe outside of Caesar’s influence. Meanwhile, Rocket and Blue Eyes, Caesar’s most trusted friend and his oldest son, are sent on a scouting mission to search both for a safe place for the colony to retreat to and to see if there is any danger of humans in the south that might support McCullough’s forces, who are approaching from the north. All of the novel’s stories come to a head as Red’s coup climaxes just as Caesar, Rocket, and Blue Eyes pull off a surprising maneuver that makes it clear the conflict is going to be far more protracted than the humans had expected. And it ends with an interesting and foreboding moment with the Colonel that suggests a dark fate for Malcolm.
Firestorm was excellent, and in Revelations Keyes displays the same facility with these characters and this world. He continues to sprinkle in easter eggs, both large and small (there’s an animal-friendly human named Armand, presumably in tribute to Ricardo Montalban’s Armando in the original series, but there is also a substantive conversation between the Colonel and his own son about the alpha/omega cult referenced in Firestorm). So while it obviously won’t be necessary for context going into the new film, this Apes fan can definitely recommend it.
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (COMICS)
The first issue of this series just came out, and while there appears to be some slight overlap with Revelations (in the Ceasar/McCullough storyline) it also broadens the scope of the story to show what the post-Dawn world looks like across the country. It definitely carries over the harsh, bleak tone of the Dawn tie-in comic, and it appears that, in addition to additional insight into the Caesar/McCullough conflict and the introduction of a mysterious character that I suspect could turn out to be Steve Zahn’s “Bad Ape” in the new film, readers will also learn more about the developments at a Atlanta research facility working on the problem of the Simian Flu. The series will run four issues, so it should wrap up in October of this year.
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES
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