Director Wes Ball: Apes enter their Bronze Age in The Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes

Director Wes Ball, who along with actors Owen Teague and Freya Allan discuss The Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes
Director Wes Ball: Apes enter their Bronze Age in The Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes

The legacy of the Planet of the Apes franchise can be traced back to 1968. Little did filmmaker Wes Ball know, as he watched the first film, starring Charlton Heston, in a VHS copy, that more than five decades later, he would be at the helm to create a new chapter in the legendary franchise. "It felt like a historical epic. This time-travelling astronaut fell into a world that felt somewhat medieval, populated by these apes, and it was one of my first introductions to sci-fi. The reveal at the end was a mind-blowing idea that triggered my fascination with the end of the world." Ball reminisces about his experience of watching the film many times over the years. 

Since its inception in the late '60s, the Planet Of The Apes franchise has released six films, and a remake was released in 2001. Beginning in 2011, the franchise was revived by 20th Century Studios with a series of three films known as the Planet of the Apes trilogy, which started with Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The trilogy revolved around the story of Caesar, a chimpanzee portrayed by Andy Serkis. It was 2019 when Ball was first asked about the possibility of reviving the iconic franchise, but he wanted to avoid following the adventures of Caesar's son. Instead, a new seed sprouted in his mind. "It was the story of a young, naive ape named Noa, who doesn't know anything about the outside world, a world in which Caesar has become a legend. If the last three movies were the apes in their Stone Age, they're entering their Bronze Age. We're starting to see cultures develop within different clans. We see what has happened to the world that was left behind, what's eroded in the absence of humanity," explains the filmmaker. 

The casting of actors to bring the apes to life was challenging for the filmmaker. Ball finally found his Noa in Owen Teague( It, Bloodline). Noa is forbidden from learning about the world beyond his village; he knows nothing of the history of the human race and that they were once the dominant species. In describing his character, Teague says, "Noa is very sheltered and doesn't really know anything about the world. He looks at the world with this optimistic view of the past, which is an interesting element of the movie: there are two totally different views and interpretations of history, and Noa is grappling with which path he chooses." 

While Teague takes charge of the ape force, Freya Allan plays Nova/Mae, a spirited female human who, like all humans, lives in the shadows and is forced to scavenge for food. "Our human character, the counterpart to Noa's character, represents the previous world that has died. She's the only real character in the film that is on camera. Everything else is a CG creation, and Freya was totally comfortable with that. She wasn't talking to apes but to actors with blue dots on their faces." Ball explains about Nova. Detailing about her character, Allan adds, "There was not much background on my character in the script, so from the start, the most important thing for me was figuring out who she is and how she got to where she is. She's fearless and physically very strong, and she is very driven and has a huge amount of drive and focus." 

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