‘War for the Planet of the Apes’: Nods to the 1968 Original You May Have Missed

[Warning: This story contains spoilers for War for the Planet of the Apes]

War for the Planet of the Apes is here to wrap up the trilogy started in 2011′s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but in many ways the latest entry in the decades-old franchise is really a setup for the 1968 original.

Loaded with Easter eggs and references to other installments in the series, War carries on the story of Caesar (Andy Serkis), the hyper-intelligent chimpanzee who went from James Franco’s pet project in Rise to a leader in 2014′s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes to his final turn as mythic figure in War.

While the timelines for the original film and the rebooted trilogy don’t add up (Charlton Heston’s Apes films take place in the far future), there are notable hints, nods and references in this year’s War. In a recent interview with Yahoo! Movies, director Matt Reeves addressed the convoluted timeline.

“Caesar’s apes are not like those apes [in the ’68 movie] and Nova is a nod towards that. None of which is to say there’s nothing literal about the connection, that’s more of a trajectory,” Reeves said. “That [trajectory] changed in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It’s clear in the original [1968] story when Taylor comes to this planet, he doesn’t think it’s planet Earth, and then he realises it is, that’s the big twist of the movie. You realise that evolution – 5000 years of evolution – after the humans have destroyed themselves, have allowed the apes to take over the planet. That’s accelerated and changed dramatically through the ALZ-113 in Rise, so they’ll never meet up, but what it does is it tells the end of the story in a way that is taking all of these stories and removing the question of ‘what happened?’ and instead focussing it on the ‘how?’ So this ends up getting to be a blockbuster that’s all about character and all about the sort of thematic, of us holding the mirror up to ourselves.”

With that out of the way, here’s a look at some of the best nods in War to the original film.

Serkis’ Caesar, the hero of this new trilogy, is in fact not the first ape named after a famous Roman leader in the series. That distinction belongs to his ancestor (possibly grandson depending on the timeline?), who made his first appearance in 1971′s Escape from the Planet of the Apes, the third entry in the franchise — though his original name was Milo. Milo, who changed his name to Caesar later in life, is the son of Cornelius, the same name of Caesar’s infant son who makes a brief appearance in War. Cornelius, as fans of the ’60s original will remember, goes on to become an archeological scientist and is one of the main ape protagonists who, along with his wife Zira, helps Heston’s Taylor escape from confinement. 

Taylor’s mute female (and human) companion also (possibly) makes an appearance in War. The young girl discovered by Caesar, Maurice (the orangutan played by Karin Konoval) and Luca (the gorilla played by Michael Adamthwaite) has already succumbed to the new virus that reduces human beings speaking ability to animal grunting, but with the help of her newfound ape guardians, the audience discovers she still retains much of her humanity and ethos. In one of the film’s more touching moments, the young girl asks Maurice if she, too, is an ape. At a loss for “words” (he can’t speak, only signs) Maurice produces the insignia from a Chevy Nova that was found earlier in the film at Bad Ape’s (Steve Zahn) hideout. “You are Nova,” Maurice signs to the bright-eyed youth, the very name of Taylor’s mute compatriot in the not-so-distant future.

Also worth noting is Maurice’s genus. He’s an orangutan, just like Dr. Zaius, the main antagonist from the original film. (He was played by Maurice Evans, whom the orangutan in the reboot was named for). The two characters share more similarities than just their orange fur, as Zaius is an extremely influential leader in his time, much like Maurice. Does this imply a familial connection between the two characters? Hard to say, but orangutans are one of the more rare species in the films. Whatever connection they may share, Dr. Zaius’ violent religious zealotry is a far cry from Maurice’s soft compassion for humans.

One other tidbit that may be familiar to Apes franchise fans is Bad Ape’s choice of attire. Notably, he is the only ape who wears clothing in the new film—even the mutinous “donkeys” that serve Woody Harrelson’s Colonel do not wear the clothing of their human counterparts. Bad Ape, however, has an eye for fashion in the style of blue, down-filled vests. Once again, this seemingly minor detail has larger implications, as that particular stylistic choice proves quite popular for the hyper-evolved apes of the near future.

War for the Planet of the Apes

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