‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ Director/Producer on Creating a ‘Prequel and a Sequel’ to the Iconic Franchise

In the final moments of 1968’s Planet of the Apes, Charlton Heston’s George Taylor slams his fists into the sands once he comes to the realization that the horrifying Planet of the Apes he landed on is, in fact, Earth. As waves crashed into Heston and the decaying ruins of the Statue of Liberty were slowly revealed, one of the most indelible images in cinema history was born.

That moment would not only stun audiences, but it would later leave a mark on a young Wes Ball — the director/producer of 20th Century Studios’ Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, which opens this weekend in theaters nationwide. (The film, which is Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, will also be available in IMAX®, Dolby Cinema®, 4DX, ScreenX, and premium screens everywhere.)

“I had very early memories of watching the original 1968 movie on TV,” Ball said this week. “The images are kind of ingrained in my brain, so I was drawing on that a lot, making this movie.”

Kingdom is the latest chapter in the Planet of the Apes franchise following three groundbreaking films (2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and 2017’s War for the Planet of the Apes), which have brought in a combined $1.6 billion at the worldwide box office.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes director Wes Ball.

The new film takes place many generations after War and tells the story of a young ape’s harrowing journey across a new empire. Ball said that since the arc of Andy Serkis’ Caesar ended in the prior trilogy, Kingdom is a “kind of a prequel and a sequel” in that it falls after the last three films, but before the events of the 1968 classic.

“Following Caesar’s storyline, in which the character goes from Pinocchio in Rise to a Moses figure in War, we wanted to make a new chapter in this long legacy of Apes films,” Ball said. “We gave it a new spirit, a new character, a younger character, who’s going to rediscover a world with us as the audience.”

Despite the new Kingdom that Ball and crew are building, the film maintains many of the unique hallmarks of the prior Planet of the Apes films, including innovative special effects that bring the apes to life using performance capture technology.

It also uses technology to build a dilapidated post-apocalyptic world in which rusty ships have washed up on shore and skyscrapers have been engulfed by forests.

“This movie is built for that great collective dream that we all enter when we go to a theater together. It’s meant to be big,” Ball said. “You want to immerse yourself in this world that is just incredibly rich and visual.”

But the Planet of the Apes franchise is more than just effects and world building, it’s a story that holds “a mirror to ourselves and reminds us of what it means to be humans,” according to Ball.

“You see humanity, even though they’re apes,” he said. “There’s plenty of stuff that I think will resonate with audiences about the world today. But we hope audiences just have a great adventure with these new characters and that Kingdom continues this legacy of films that have been iconic for the last 55 years.”