As great as 20th Century Fox’s reboot of the Planet Of The Apes franchise has been, the new mythos is still missing something vital: Apes wearing pants. Okay, that’s not the vital part: what’s still missing are the bonkers, left-turn adversaries the series introduced in 1970's Beneath The Planet Of The Apes: good old mutant humans. That’s right, sooner or later this series is gonna need a terrifying, nightmarish cult of bomb worshippers whose pristine visages hide the twisted results of Forbidden Zone radiation. Check it:
So will the new continuity eventually deliver these malformed antagonists to the nu-Apesverse? And if so, when? There’ve been some rumblings in the trailer breakdowns and set visits surrounding War For The Planet Of The Apes that do seem to suggest there might be some mutant humans in the franchise’s future. What follows is mostly speculation, but if I’m right it might blindly careen into spoiler territory, so be warned.
In Empire’s great trailer breakdown with War director Matt Reeves, he notes that “the troops (Woody Harrelson) leads are a particularly hardened splinter unit called the Alpha Omega. That’s a little reference to Beneath The Planet Of The Apes. Alpha and Omega is the beginning and the end, and they feel that’s what they represent for humanity."
Interesting. In Beneath, the mutants living underground worshipped a doomsday weapon called the Alpha-Omega bomb.
Taylor (Charlton Heston) detonates this bomb at the film’s conclusion and destroys Earth. There are visual cues to Alpha and Omega in the trailer:
But okay, Mr. Reeves, we’ll play along with your insistence that it’s just a “little reference.”
Except…over at IGN’s set visit report, someone - okay, it was Andy Serkis - blabbed that the Simian Flu – the result of James Franco’s Alzheimer’s cure that wiped out most of humanity and smartened up the apes - isn’t done mutating. Sayeth IGN:
“…Even though approximately 12 years have passed since the events in Rise, the flu and ALZ are still working their way through the human and ape societies.
“They're discovering how much the virus is affecting humanity and bringing them to yet another...,” Serkis says before choosing his words carefully. “The virus is having a rebirth and is actually becoming much more aggressive and attacking the humans in another way too.”
You don't say. In that same set visit, producer Dylan Clark adds, “The virus has mutated…and so it hasn’t stopped. It's the gift that keeps on giving… in the worst possible way.”
Hmmm. If I were a betting man, I’d wager the Simian Flu is about to do one of three things in the upcoming film: it’s causing humans to intellectually regress and become mute, leading to the primitive knuckleheads Heston finds in the 1968 original; it is causing humans to mutate (producer Clark’s word, mind you) into the scarred (and telepathic?) underground society seen in Beneath the Planet of the Apes; or it’s actually doing BOTH these things, affecting the remaining human population in two distinct ways and splitting them into the two factions we know – or at least versions of those factions - from the original continuity.
Is any of this on the money? We can’t be sure. But it's fun to speculate! Part of what’s so exciting about this new iteration of the Planet of the Apes is all the places the franchise has yet to go. Mute humans! Mutant humans! Apes in color-coordinated clothing! It’s an exciting time to be an Apes fan.