Planet of the Apes – Rise of the Mega-Franchise

The Planet of the Apes franchise seems to have been around forever. The very first movie in the series was made in 1968, based on the 1963 French-language novel La Planete des Singes by Pierre Boulle and called simply Planet of the Apes.

The original starred Charlton Heston as astronaut Charles Taylor, who arrives at a distant planet to find that the humans who live there are lazy and complacent, and as such have become over-run by intelligent and hard-working native apes. The apes now use the humans for menial work and also hunt them for sport. You’ll find no spoilers here, but the ending to the film is an all-time classic.

It’s a fascinating concept and there is little wonder it has spawned an entertainment dynasty spanning five decades, including another eight feature films, a television series and a host of video games.

The series of movies can be distinctly split into sections, with the original quintet of films following from the original within five years, between 1968 and 1973. The majority of these films received a positive critical reception and ended only when Hollywood icon Heston chose not to continue with the franchise and was written out.

Younger viewers will better remember Tim Burton’s 2001 remake Planet of the Apes, which landed with an opening weekend box office taking of $68.5m. This delivered the franchise back into the modern day and lead to the 2011 series reboot Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which itself spawned sequels in 2014 and 2017. In October it was announced that a fourth film is planned, which could lend itself to a trilogy spin-off.

This modernisation of the series brought about a wave of commercial interest in the concept of Planet of the Apes. In recent years there has been a host of spin-offs and merchandising, including, as you might expect, a plethora of t-shirts, skirts and jeans.

There is no better example of this uber-modernisation of the 60s series than in the success of the video games, the first of which was released in conjunction with the 2001 film on PC, PlayStation and Gameboy. There have been a number of games released since, including the well-received 2017 game Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier, released on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.

In a further modernisation of the franchise, Planet of the Apes enthusiasts can bet with bitcoin to play the series’ slot game. They can also play with cash, of course, but some prefer the safety and value of using the online-only currency – an option a world away from the origins of the franchise in 1963.

A host of other manifestations of the franchise exist, including a series of comics and two mid-70s television series that ran to mixed critical acclaim. With the new film series receiving widespread acclaim the influence on other entertainment sectors continues; Malaysia’s 20th Century Fox theme park has a Planet of the Apes roller-coaster ride under construction, to be opened in 2018.

This will, of course, open ahead of the new movie title and amidst rumours of a spin-off series of films likely in the next few years. After nearly 50 years of Apes influence on a range of entertainment industries, it could be that the series is just getting going.

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