Since the 1968 Charlton Heston movie of the same name – itself adapted from a 1963 French sci-fi novel by Pierre Boulle – Planet of the Apes has been a pop culture staple.

With groundbreaking prosthetics work and a phenomenal script by Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling – complete with a Twilight Zone gut punch of a climactic twist too – it was a huge critical and commercial success.

The original 60s movie was followed by four sequels, which told the story leading up to the events of the first film cleverly, albeit with budgets that continued to scale downwards, to the detriment of the prosthetic ape effects.

A live action and animated series followed, though these were both short-lived.

Tim Burton directed a weak reboot in 2001, starring Mark Wahlberg, Helena Bonham-Carter and Tim Roth; it was notable mostly for its stunning Rick Baker-created ape prosthetics and an absolutely nonsensical ending, which sought to put a spin on the ‘It’s Earth!’ shock of the original, to unintentionally hilarious effect.

While the Burton reboot was a box office success, Burton himself wasn’t interested in directing a sequel and audiences were mostly nonplussed; the property seemed to be dead once more.

Yet a James Franco-starring, modern day prequel reboot – Rise of the Planet of the Apes – emerged in 2011. It was a superb summer blockbuster with jaw dropping motion capture performances – most notably by Andy Serkis as the lead ape, Caesar – and stunning CGI apes.

It led to two very good sequels – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes – both directed by Matt Reeves, also starring Andy Serkis as the link between the films; the human cast revolving between instalments.

Serkis brought a believable humanity and vulnerability to Caesar; his performance of the character isn’t talked about or praised nearly enough in my opinion. He’s the heart and soul of a series of films which push effects technology to its contemporary limits, yet use it in a way that draws viewers in to believe in what’s happening on screen; combine it with the amazing dedication and craft of the actors playing the apes and the achievement is even more astonishing.

It’s this trilogy that the new Marvel Planet of the Apes mini series draws from, telling a story in parallel to (and sometimes directly retelling) the events of the first film, as well as taking us just beyond the climax of Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Given the time jumps between each film in the trilogy, there’s an awful lot of space to tell interesting stories in that milieu – and while this issue is mostly set up to give us an idea of the status quo before the plot gets underway, it does so in a very satisfying and economical fashion, with some great art to boot.

Some of the dialogue is a little clunky – particularly the pop culture references thrown in during one conversation – but overall this opening issue is great set up for the rest of the series.

Time will tell if it does anything of interest with the intriguing setting that it drops us into – which is particularly compelling in a post-lockdown, real world where a pandemic still looms over us – but for now, this is a fairly accessible read even if you aren’t as familiar – or as enamoured – with the Planet of the Apes franchise as I am.

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