Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes Director Explains His View On The Franchise Timeline Between The Caesar Trilogy And His Movie

 Noa (played by Owen Teague), Soona (played by Lydia Peckham), and Anaya (played by Travis Jeffery) discover human cloth in Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes.
Noa (played by Owen Teague), Soona (played by Lydia Peckham), and Anaya (played by Travis Jeffery) discover human cloth in Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes.

Watching Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes, a fan will note that it doesn’t get super specific about its place on the Planet Of The Apes timeline. An early title card only describes the setting as “Many Generations Later” following the events of War For The Planet Of The Apes, and the movie doesn’t have characters perform exposition dumps explaining key points in history. It’s an approach that opens one’s imagination to what has happened in the canon since the days of Caesar – and that was exactly director Wes Ball’s intention.

When I interviewed the filmmaker late last month during the new blockbuster’s Los Angeles press day, my very first question was about his approach to the movie’s place in the Planet Of The Apes franchise and how he went about filling in the gap between the end of the Caesar Trilogy and the beginning of Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes. In addition to acknowledging that the movie plays it loose when it comes to the specific number of years that have passed, he explained that he wanted to leave events open for interpretation while operating with a behind-the-scenes knowledge:

A couple hundred years is what we keep saying. It's just a thing where... some people are like, 'Oh, the world doesn't look old enough,' or 'The world doesn't look too old,' or whatever it is. So it's better just to do 'many generations later' and let them kind of think what that means for themselves. But for us, it's hundreds of years: enough time that kind of dark ages have happened, enough has been lost, eroded, you know, and transformed, manipulated – all that kind of stuff. That's kind of where we went.

Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes includes a character – namely the orangutan Raka (Peter Macon) – who could theoretically be used as a vessel for gobs of exposition. The movie’s protagonist, Noa (Owen Teague), meets him while on the search for his friends and family, and he teaches the young chimpanzee about the teachings of Caesar. The film, however, opts to not go this route, and it is better because of it.

Not only does the work inspire the imaginations of movie-goers, but it also allows them to see the world through the character’s eyes. Because of the story’s distance from the Caesar Trilogy, it’s an alien setting that we are invited to learn about. As Wes Ball put it,

We have ideas for like what sort of brought us to this point, but it's really kind of fun just to drop right in the middle of this thing, and there's so much we don't know. It just puts us in a good place to where we can just kind of rediscover a world along with these characters, you know what I mean? Rather than just doing a kind of direct sequel thing. That was the choice really, to get some distance. It gave us a lot of opportunities actually, and freedom, I guess, to kind of do our own thing.

I complemented Wes Ball for not dragging the movie down with exposition and having characters explain everything about the world and themselves. He admitted that he wasn’t sure all audiences are going to appreciate that quality of the work, but his intention was to create a balance between the known and the unknown while setting up a vision for the franchise’s future. Said Ball,

We'll see if that works for people, but we chose to kind of do two plus two instead of four, right? People lean in and kind of do their own interpretations of things, and part of that is just there's too much movie in it – there's too much stuff, you know? But hopefully we found that balance where there's enough to get you interested, because we've got ideas where we can keep expanding all this stuff in the future if we're lucky enough. But you're right. We tried hard not to hold your hand too much. We'll see if it works.

Starring Freya Allan, Kevin Durand, and William H. Macy in addition to the aforementioned Owen Teague and Peter Macon, Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes arrived in theaters this past Friday and it opened at number one in the box office Top 10. Check it out at your local cinema if you haven’t already, and stay tuned here on CinemaBlend for more interviews and features about the blockbuster.