The “Planet of the Apes” films, like the 1963 novel that started it all, have always served as a funhouse mirror for humanity. Their anthropomorphic apes reflect not only our greatest strengths and flaws back at us, they also remind us of what it means to be human. (Even Tim Burton’s remake got that part right.)
In a 2017 interview with Den of Geek, Matt Reeves explained why he feels that’s also the key to his “Apes” movies, making them an “anomaly” among contemporary tentpoles:
“… I feel like the studios, what they’re willing to do is a very narrow band of entertainment, right? And these summer films especially, they live on spectacle. What’s a unique gift to this is that the spectacle is photo -real apes – that they emote, and you identify with them.That gives an opportunity to tell a story that you do not get to tell in a grand scale summer blockbuster, which is that we’re holding a mirror up to ourselves. The apes create just enough distance for the audience, that they’ll engage in a story that you could not otherwise do on this scale anymore, because it’s not what people are going to. And so it allows us to do something different, and I feel that’s been the real gift of getting to be in this franchise. We could be thematically ambitious. “
Reeves would go on to use comic book superheroes and super-villains in a similar way on “The Batman,” an emo blockbuster for the emo world we live in. And while I would argue “The Batman” falls short in realizing its ambitions, that’s only further testament to what an “anomaly” his “Planet of the Apes” films really are.