The trailer for the third modern Apes film may reveal some hints about humanity's fate. Potential spoilers ahead ...
Over at Birth.Movies.Death, they've got a theory -- based partially on speculation and partially on a few tantalizing clues -- that in War for the Planet of the Apes we may see the beginning of at least some humans' transformation into the skinless, radiation-scarred, telepathic mutants who, in 1970's Beneath the Planet of the Apes, worshiped a doomsday bomb that ended up destroying the world.
How do they figure this? Well, for one thing, the troops who are making humanity's last stand in the new movie, led by Woody Harrelson's Colonel, are called the Alpha Omega unit -- which was the name of that bomb that turns the Earth into ash in Beneath. How do we know this? Because director/co-writer Matt Reeves told Empire:
"...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."
There's even an Alpha Omega symbol used in the new film (thanks again, BMD):
Okay, so that's a neat little homage to Beneath and maybe nothing more, right? Plus, if you remember, humanity in the original Apes films both devolved into savagery and evolved into mutated telepaths over the course of 2,000 years, following a nuclear war that wiped out most of us and allowed the apes to ascend. There's no suggestion of a nuclear exchange happening in the new Apes saga, but there is something else that could send humanity down its two terrifying tracks: the Simian Flu.
Yes, the virus developed in Rise of the Planet of the Apes by scientist James Franco -- the one that first cured dementia, then made the apes intelligent and then mutated itself into a human-killing plague -- is still around two movies later and still potentially screwing around with us. Here's what star Andy Serkis said to IGN during a War set visit:
“They're discovering how much the virus is affecting humanity and bringing them to yet another...The virus is having a rebirth and is actually becoming much more aggressive and attacking the humans in another way too.”
Producer Dylan Clark added that in War, the virus "hasn't stopped." He called it the "gift that keeps on giving ... in the worst possible way.”
The conclusion at BMD is that the virus is doing the work of the original movies' nuclear war by possibly mutating in two directions: One strain is turning humans into the mute primitives that Charlton Heston first encountered in 1968's Planet of the Apes, while another variation is sending some of us down the path that will result in becoming Beneath's telepathic psychopaths.
It's just a theory, as we stated earlier, but it's a darn elegant one, and it brings the series neatly toward the world first encountered by Heston nearly 50 years ago (or, um, is that 2,000 years from now?), which is where Reeves has said in the past it's eventually headed. Since the truly bizarre and bleak Beneath is my favorite of the original sequels, and I love those bomb-praying mutants dearly, the thought of seeing them begin to manifest themselves in the already excellent-looking War for the Planet of the Apes is an exciting one to this Apes fan. Tell us below what you make of all this theorizing and whether you're pro-mutant yourself.
War for the Planet of the Apes is out in theaters July 14, 2017.