War for the Planet of the Apes is one of the more successful tentpole films to hit cinemas this summer, winning over both the public and the critics, and this marks the perfect prelude to 2018’s fifty-year anniversary of the release of the original movie. This particular franchise has come a long way since then, with several ups and downs, and we will detail this progress here.

The original series of films

The 1968 film Planet of the Apes was an adaptation of a novel called La Planete des Singes, by the French writer Pierre Boulle, which was published in 1963. It depicted a world where humans were a minority, subject to oppression by the ape majority, and starred Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter and Charlton Heston. It proved to be a huge global box office hit, bringing in $33,395,426, on a budget of $5,800,000 and spawned a string of sequels over the next few years. These began with 1970’s Beneath the Planet of the Apes and culminated in Battle for the Planet of the Apes three years later – with the $8,800,000 box office for the latter showing how much audience enthusiasm had waned. Heston, and much of the behind-the-scenes creative talent were absent from the sequels, which failed to match the quality of the first film, and seemingly killed off the franchise.

2001 film revival

It would be three decades before the franchise returned to the cinema, although it had been in development for much longer, and it was Tim Burton who took up the directing reins – with Mark Wahlberg as the new star. The 2001 revival was heavily criticised by critics for abandoning many of the more cerebral, science fiction aspects of the original in favour of more straightforward action adventure, and also failed to secure enough box office interests to kick-start a new franchise.

New film series

At this point, few would have bet on Planet of the Apes making a triumphant return to cinemas, but the release of Rise of the Planet of the Apes succeeded in reviving its fortunes. With a new creative team, led by writers Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa, this 2011 film explored the story of a chimpanzee with genetic enhancements that has been brought up by humans. It was a huge worldwide hit and was followed by Dawn of the Planet of the Apes three years later and now War of the Planet of the Apes. The dark depiction of war in this film earned critical approval (Insert 2 here), as well as the thumbs-up from audiences.

Non-film

Back in the mid-1970s, following the end of the original film series, there were two attempts to launch the franchise on television. 1974 saw the Planet of the Apes live action show, which retained McDowell and much of the plot of the first film, while the following year brought the Return to the Planet of the Apes animated series. Both were cancelled, having failed to win viewers, but the recent revival of the series has led to more successful spin-offs like the upcoming Planet of the Apes themed slot game, showing the benefits of branching out when a franchise is growing rather than declining.

A fourth film in the current series has already been confirmed and it could be that the studio will release further details next year, for the anniversary.

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