When Wes Ball came up with his idea for what a new Planet Of The Apes film could be, he distilled it down to a handy one-line pitch: “Apocalypto with apes”. The acclaimed 2006 film – all spoken in the Mayan language, and depicting a ferocious trip through a dangerous jungle in early 1500s Yucatán – is known for its propulsive energy, pulse-pounding action, and affecting emotional story. Combine that with sci-fi’s long-running action-adventure saga, and you get Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes – setting the stage for a wild new adventure.
Once the initial notion to invoke Apocalypto hit Ball, he “had this flood of ideas,” he tells Empire, seeing the opportunity to “set a whole new trajectory” in the timeline with a story set 300-ish years after the most recent trilogy. For Joe Hartwick, Ball’s long-time producing partner, Kingdom is all about pushing out into the world, seen through the eyes of Owen Teague’s young ape hero Noa. “The last couple of movies concerned Caesar’s burden,” Hartwick explains. “Much like The Dark Knight, they felt heavy — super-enjoyable, but super-intense. We’re going in a different direction. Noa still has a burden, but it’s wrapped in a different level of adventure, mostly because the character hasn’t been exposed to the outside world before. So we’re seeing him see the world for the first time.” Check out some brand new concept art here:
Venturing out into that world – that kingdom, if you will – will plunge audiences into a human-hunt sequence akin to the one in the 1968 original, a river-rapids chase, and a set-piece VFX Supervisor Erik Winquist describes as “a big, cataclysmic biblical kind of event”. And with all the ape characters being performance-capture, that brought significant challenges to keep it all looking realistic while pushing further than ever into fresh environments. “It was apparent on the page that this was going to be tricky in a number of instances, where you’ve got wet apes,” says Winquist. “You start getting into the need to deal with how the water affects the fur and how the fur affects the water. Thankfully we just came off a film called The Way Of Water, so we’ve been able to harness a lot of the experience and the tech that went into that film.” Buckle up – ‘Ape-ocalypto’ is about to make a major splash.
Read Empire’s full Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes story – speaking to director Wes Ball, stars Owen Teague and Kevin Durand, writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, and more – in the Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes issue, on sale Thursday 21 December. Pre-order a copy online here. Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes comes to UK cinemas from 24 May 2024.