War for the Planet of the Apes calls back to character from original film

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Dec 22, 2016, 3:02 PM EST

The filmmakers behind the upcoming Apes sequel continue to plant all kinds of cool little easter eggs in the rebooted series.

First we had a mention of a lost spacecraft called Icarus in 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes -- the Icarus of course being the interstellar craft that Charlton Heston piloted to a future Earth in the original 1968 Planet of the Apes. We've also seen recent references to the Alpha-Omega bomb and the possibility of human mutants -- both lifted from 1970's Beneath the Planet of the Apes -- cropping up in War for the Planet of the Apes

But now the latter film has made its most overt reference yet to the old films (save for the name of the main character being Caesar): In a new piece of concept art that has debuted at EW, a gorilla and a mute little girl played by Amiah Miller -- also seen in the movie's first trailer -- share a quiet moment together. 

In the movie, Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his battalion of apes apparently kill the girl's father after coming upon their home, but the orangutan Maurice convinces Caesar to save the girl's life by taking her with them. Director Matt Reeves said, "The battle is not just between the humans and the apes, but in Caesar’s soul ... the girl is his pull back to his empathy and -- for lack of a better word -- his human side."

That little girl's name? Nova.

Apes fans will recall that Nova was the name bestowed upon the mute, primitive young woman who became the companion of Charlton Heston's Colonel Taylor in Planet of the Apes. Played by Linda Harrison (then wife of Fox studio head Richard Zanuck), the sweetly innocent Nova appeared in both the original film and Beneath, before being gunned down by a gorilla soldier in the final nihilistic minutes of that picture. 

Here's the confusing part, though: While naming the little girl in the new film Nova would seem like just a fun callback to the original series, EW claims that the girl in War for the Planet of the Apes is actually the same character

Uh ... I'm not sure how that can be. The new Apes saga takes place in more or less our immediate future, roughly 12 years from the present. The original movie and Beneath were set 2,000 years from now, so unless the new films are going to massively accelerate the timeline, or they find a way for Nova to stay alive for 20 centuries, either EW has it wrong or Reeves has some explaining to do.

I guess we'll learn more as the July 14, 2017, release date of War for the Planet of the Apes approaches, won't we?