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What to stream: A guide to the ‘Planet of the Apes’ film franchise

From left, Kim Hunter, Roddy McDowall and Charlton Heston in “Planet of the Apes.” The 1968 movie launched a film franchise, and this week, the 10th “Planet of the Apes” entry bows in theaters, “The Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes.”  (Globe Photos)
By Katie Walsh Tribune News Service

It’s been over five decades since the first “Planet of the Apes” movie premiered in 1968, and this week, the 10th “Planet of the Apes” film bows in theaters, “The Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes,” seven years since the last “Apes” film. A franchise filled with sequels, remakes and reboots, here’s your guide to all things “Planet of the Apes” to get you ready for the new movie.

Based on a 1963 sci-fi novel by French author Pierre Boulle (he also wrote the novel “The Bridge Over the River Kwai”), the original “Planet of the Apes” films were produced by 20th Century Fox. Since that studio now resides under the Disney corporate umbrella, all nine previous films are available to stream on Hulu (owned by Disney). The five original franchise films, made between 1968 and 1973, and the 2001 Tim Burton remake are also all available on Starz (or for rent on iTunes, Prime Video, etc.), while the four franchise reboot films (2011-2017) are also available on Max (or for rent elsewhere). But a Hulu subscription will get you access to all the “Apes” movies you can stand.

The 1968 “Planet of the Apes,” directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and starring Charlton Heston, was written by “Twilight Zone” creator Rod Serling and “Kwai” screenwriter Michael Wilson. Heston stars as an astronaut who travels to a strange planet ruled by apes (then realizes he was on Earth all along). The film was a smash success and earned Oscar nominations for the score and costumes, and an honorary Oscar for its makeup effects, the first given to a makeup artist.

Capitalizing on the success, the producers moved quickly on a sequel, “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” (1970), in which Heston only appeared in a few scenes before his character was killed off. In the film, another astronaut travels into the future and finds Heston’s character imprisoned by a group of subterranean human mutants. The film was not a critical success but it was a box-office hit nonetheless. More apes!

“Escape from the Planet of the Apes” (1971), “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” (1972) and “Battle for the Planet of the Apes” (1973) brought the story back to Earth and used the sci-fi story of the apes as an allegory for contemporary social issues, including racial injustice. The character of Caesar, played by Roddy McDowall, who leads an ape rebellion, was introduced in “Conquest” – more on him later.

In the 1970s, there was also a live-action CBS TV series, and an animated series, but the franchise died out throughout the ’80s and ’90s, despite efforts to reboot it. They finally succeeded in 2001 with Tim Burton’s remake starring Mark Wahlberg, Helena Bonham Carter and Paul Giamatti. Wahlberg stars as an astronaut who travels through a wormhole to an ape planet where humans are enslaved and ultimately leads a human rebellion. It was a difficult production and not well-received, but still did well at the box office, which is why they keep making these movies.

Ten years later, husband-wife screenwriting duo Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver relaunched the “Apes” franchise with their concept for “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” focusing on our old pal Caesar from “Conquest” and “Battle.” “Rise” was directed by Rupert Wyatt, and Caesar was portrayed by motion-capture king Andy Serkis. The film was a critical and financial success, earning an Oscar nomination for visual effects. Because this is “Planet of the Apes,” that meant one thing: sequels.

Future “The Batman” director Matt Reeves took over directing on “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” (2014) and “War for the Planet of the Apes” (2017), following Caesar’s journey as an ape leader, from uprising to armed clashes with humans. The films were great successes with critics, fans and moviegoers, and “War” brought Caesar’s story to a fitting conclusion. The latest film, “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes,” takes place 300 years after the events of “War,” introducing a new cast of characters.

Hopefully that brings you up to speed with a brief overview of all things “Planet of the Apes,” one of the most enduring, and popular, film franchises in cinema history.