Although the rebooted Planet Of The Apes films have charted their own story, they have never been shy about calling back to the original series of five films from the 1960s and `70s. It’s a nice way of acknowledging the franchise’s roots while at the same time suggesting that certain things are always fated to be part of the Planet Of The Apes saga, no matter how the events are played out. The latest entry in the rebooted franchise, War For The Planet Of The Apes, is no exception.
Note: Some of these are spoilers, especially the last one. You have been warned.
In the film we learn that the men under The Colonel’s command are all branded with a tattoo of the Greek letters Alpha and Omega. If you’ve seen the second installment of the classic series, Beneath The Planet Of The Apes, that should feel awfully familiar to you. In that film, the underground mutants who live in the Forbidden Zone, actually a nuked out Manhattan, worshiped a “doomsday bomb” which was emblazoned with the Alpha and Omega on its side. Furthermore, at one point the Colonel (Woody Harrelson) explains that his military base is actually an old, abandoned weapons depot and hints that there are many weapons stored underground, also recalling the subterranean setting of the mutants’ “church” where they housed the Doomsday Bomb.
Names are the biggest callbacks in the rebooted Apes series so far. Current franchise lead Caesar is an obvious nod to the character played by Roddy McDowell in Battle For The Planet Of The Apes and Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes, which is appropriate as this new trilogy of films is a big reinterpretation of those two movies’ story. War also has a McDowell connection in the form of Cornelius, the name given to Caesar’s second son. Cornelius, of course, is the name of the chimpanzee that McDowell played in the original Planet Of The Apes and Escape From The Planet Of The Apes. (The role was played by David Watson in Beneath The Planet Of The Apes due to McDowell being in Scotland directing the film Tam Lin.)
There is another name call back to the original Apes film in the character of the mute girl found by Caesar, Maurice, Luca and Rocket – Nova. In the original film the character, played by Linda Harrison, was one of the feral humans whom Taylor discovers and names. Here, she is a girl who is hiding out from the conflict between apes and humans with her father. After her father is killed, Maurice insists on bringing her along. It is later in the film that Maurice gives Nova her names from a shiny Chevy Nova car insignia she carries. It is perhaps fitting that Maurice is the one who names Nova, as his own name is a reference to the original Apes film, that of Maurice Evans, who played orangutan Dr. Zaius. It is also fitting as Nova is the first human we meet in the new films that displays the loss of speech common to the humans in the original Apes movie.
When Caesar is being held captive by the Colonel, he is put out in the middle of the compound, chained to an X-shaped rack. It is a familiar sight to those who have seen the original Planet Of The Apes film. Those X-shaped crucifixes recall the ones that Taylor (Charlton Heston) and his crew observe on a ridge while first exploring the world that their spaceship has crashed on.
OK, this last one might not be an Easter egg so much as it is an interesting coincidence. At the end of the film, Caesar has freed his people from enslavement and watched while an avalanche wiped out their pursuers. Leading them to their new home after crossing a desert, he dies from his wounds sustained during the film’s final battle just as they arrive. Substitute the avalanche wiping out soldiers for a wall of water taking out pursuing Egyptian troops and label the apes’ new lush green valley home a “Promised Land” and you have yourself a very obvious Moses parallel for Caesar. And who most famously played Moses in 1956’s The Ten Commandments? Original Planet Of The Apes star Charlton Heston, of course.