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This weekend’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes will be the eighth feature film (the second in the new series that began with 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes) in a franchise that has spanned books, film, television, and comics over the last fifty years. The Apes series, with its popularity, merchandise, and ancillaries, in many ways prefigured the modern franchise era that is generally acknowledged as beginning with Star Wars (and was codified with 1989’s Batman).
That Planet of the Apes became such a sensation is especially interesting because the series is so deeply weird. Full of powerful inversions to go along with the story’s portrait of a world turned upside down, the series was hugely popular with children despite being full of talky moral debate and featuring relentessly downbeat endings. Just as audiences find themselves oriented in a world where the humans are subjugated and apes rule, the series will turn things around and get them to identify with the apes and root against humankind (and then, perhaps, back again). This is a series that extends a further three entries after an ending that would seem to preclude any further stories.
First things first, I can’t suggest strongly enough that you should just go and watch the original series of five films. They’re imaginative adventure films with memorable characters and rich socio-political content, and they’re so full of twists and turns that even if you know the big reveal at the end of the first film there are still plenty of shocking twists and turns in store. Continue reading A ‘Planet of the Apes’ Primer