Is RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES a sequel to Tim Burton’s movie? A prequel? A remake? A reboot? I try to break it down to help you understand just what the heck Fox’s new APES film is.

I’ve seen some confusion about Rise of the Planet of the Apes, in terms of people not quite knowing what the film is or isn’t, in relation to the original series. Being a Planet of the Apes sexpert and having been on the set of the film (set visit report forthcoming, I guess - nobody from Fox told me the embargo was up!), I think I can offer folks some information.

- It has nothing to do with Tim Burton’s film. This movie is not related to Tim Burton’s mangled ‘reimagining’ of Planet of the Apes whatsoever. Don’t expect any references or any tie-ins to that movie. The filmmakers would rather that you simply forgot it existed.

- It’s a remake of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. Sort of. When I was on set the filmmakers weren’t really looking to tie themselves to this film, either. But the fact is that this movie owes much of itself to that classic fourth installment of the Apes saga. As in Conquest the main character of Rise is named Caesar. Unlike Conquest, this Caesar is the result of genetic testing (the original Caesar was the child of talking apes from the future, making the origin of talking apes sort of a time travel paradox. They’re their own grandfathers, essentially). Like Conquest, this Caesar eventually leads mistreated apes in an uprising, one which will eventually (but not in this film) lead to an ape-dominated planet.

- It’s a prequel to Planet of the Apes. Sort of. I can’t speak for the finished film, but while I was on set (and as I read in the script), I saw references to the launch of the Icarus, which is the ship that carries Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes (yes, hardcore Apes nerds, I know it’s never referred to as such in the original movie, but everybody calls it that). This gets a touch confused because there are characters in Rise who have the same names as characters in Planet, but who are NOT those characters. And near as I can tell are not related to those characters.

- It’s essentially creating a new timeline that would allow Fox to explore Planet of the Apes again. There’s no reason to remake Planet of the Apes, and no way to recapture the surprise of the original. But the idea of Planet of the Apes - a world where the natural order is topsy turvy, and a world which can be mined for rich, current thematic material - is still ripe for exploration. The idea would be to have Rise begin a franchise that could one day stretch forward to tell the tale of a world completely dominated by apes, but one that would take many movies to get there. Should Rise do well expect any sequel to be more on the order of Battle For the Planet of the Apes, a world where humanity is on the wane and apes are taking the next evolutionary steps, under the guidance of Caesar.

I hope this clears up some of the confusion about just what kind of a movie Rise of the Planet of the Apes is. As to its quality… we’re going to have to wait until August to see.