Home Alone and Mrs Doubtfire director Chris Columbus took over the helm of the new Planet of the Apes movie for 20th Century Fox in early 1995. He hired scriptwriter Sam Hamm (Tim Burton's Batman, an unproduced treatment for a Watchmen movie, and Columbus' co-writer on an unproduced Fantastic Four script). Hamm's Planet of the Apes screenplay kept the 'aging-virus' plot from Terry Hayes' previous script but was heavily influenced by Pierre Boulle's original source novel, perhaps even more so than was the 1968 movie adaptation.
"We tried to do a story that was simultaneously a homage to the elements we liked from the five films, and would also incorporate a lot of material [from Boulle's novel] that had been jettisoned from the earlier production," Hamm said. "The first half of the script bore little resemblance to the book, but a lot of the stuff in the second half comes directly from it, or directly inspired by it."
In the midst of the fireworks celebrating the 4th of July 1998 in New York, a huge fireball comes screaming across Manhattan and slaps into the harbour like an exploding bomb. The following day, a floating crane lifts a charred, black mass from the harbour bed. It's a machine of inexplicably baroque design. The crane hoists it over the deck of a container ship. X-ray and ultrasound machines monitor the machine and discover a fuzzy, manlike silhouette moving within the craft. A hatch blows open and a white-gloved hand rises out. An inhuman voice croaks out something like “Plleeeeeeeezzz...” but a 19-year-old coast guardsman panics and shoots. The passenger pitches forward through the open hatch and hangs there. A trickle of blood runs down the side of the craft onto the deck where it seethes and churns until a small quantity of bubbling pink organic slop arises and crawls across the deck and into the harbour. Unseen by human eyes, a seagull trys to take flight but a long pink tendril pulls it beneath the waves.
Nine months later (12 April 1999) at a maternity hospital a helicopter carries a group of specialists from the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, led by Dr. Susan Landis, "a handsome woman in her early thirties, with a face full of quick, ironic intelligence, insatiable curiosity, and boundless good humor". The hospital’s Dr. Engel shows her a newborn infant with leathery, wrinkled skin, liver spots and rotting yellow teeth. It looks like an eighty-year-old man. Engel has an entire roomful of afflicted babies, thirty or forty of them, in various stages of disintegration. The hospital conference room is commandeered by the CDC high command, who have taken every available phone jack to plug their laptops into the net. During months of study, they guess that somebody had to have tailored an infectious mutagen, and they discover the tiny tendriled pink organism floating among the red and white corpuscles of a blood sample.
At her home, Landis finds a "fortyish, perpetually bemused, pipe-smoking" Jamaican named Raymond Dodge. He’s there on behalf of Dr. Alexander Troy, and takes her to a base hidden in the New Mexico desert, where Dr. Troy and another scientist - the thirtyish, slightly pudgy, nerdy Weldon Stewart - share their findings. The pink stuff appears to be some kind of self-replicating organic machine which attacks foetal DNA. They take Landis to a sealed vacuum chamber holding the frozen corpse of an orangutan in a bloodstained spacesuit - the alien visitor from fourteen months earlier. Studying his starship, they have estimated that he came from an Earth-like planet orbiting Alpha Centauri, travelling almost five light-years to Earth, and that he was the pilot. The ship has been restored and 26-year-old hell-raising hotshot Cmdr. David Astor has been learning how to fly it. It was programmed for a round-trip all along, and so they plan to fly it back to where it came from, to seek a cure for the epidemic. Inside are five cryogenic tanks: the trip will take six years; they will accelerate for a year; travel at max speed for four; and in the last year, decelerate. Due to relativistic time dilation, during six years on the ship, thirty-four years will pass on Earth, but there should still be a handful of fertile women for them to cure on their eventual return. As the mission gets under way, two side-by-side chronometers in the cockpit read: ‘Sidereal Date: 11/19/01 21:07:17; Earth Date: 07/08/02 11:51:03’. The second chronometer is ticking off the minutes at a visibly faster clip than the first.
As they enter another solar system with three suns burning brightly, the chronometers read: ‘Sidereal Time: 03/29/16 01:94:30; Earth Time: 06/21/33 12:02:56’. The cryo-units’ lids retract and the crew float out, using Velcro shoes to take hold of the carpeted floor. They notice small purple globules floating in the air and turn to the fifth unit - the lid is still in place, but the glass is missing. The bloodless corpse of Stewart floats out with a big open gash on the back of his hand. The globules are blood; in the near-vacuum conditions his bloodstream emptied out in a couple of seconds. The ship breaks through the clouds of the alien planet into a bleak, beautiful, icy landscape. Astor brings the craft down safely, and Troy and Dodge give Stewart a burial under a pile of rocks; Dodge pulling a tiny American flag from his pocket and planting it at the head of the grave. A radio box disappears from their make-shift camp and they are aware of someone watching them. They nervously get back in the ship as it comes under attack from stones and spears. Astor fires the rockets to scare the attackers away, but then realises they are perched on a frozen lake. With the heat from the rockets, the ship starts sliding rapidly into the icy waters. The hatch is blown and Astor and Dodge jump out to safety, but Troy and Landis have to swim back up to the ice. They are all taken captive by a hunting party of shaggy, fur-clad stone-age men and taken to their cave dwelling. Troy and Susan change from their ice-water-soaked spacesuits into animal furs.
Basic communication with the tribesmen ends abruptly when they hear the sound of a hunter’s horn and suddenly the tribespeople run off in all directions. Outside the cave is a helicopter, and seated in it, aiming gas-grenades, is a gorilla in full military dress! The cave mouth is flanked by gas-masked gorillas with guns and prods and a huge net. In the melee the astronauts get separated. Dodge goes further into the back of the cave with the primitives. Troy, Astor and Landis take out a few of the hunters and while the other two try to find an escape route, Astor makes a run for the camp site and the crate of rifles they brought with them. Just as he reaches the camp, he is hit with a tranquilizing dart. Apes zip around the slopes in snowmobiles and on skis and using cellular phones, herding the humans. Troy and Landis ambush a snowmobile and use it to make an escape. A helicopter spots them and the gorillas inside laugh - “Human see, human do!” - before capturing the pair.
Troy comes back to consciousness just in time to see a truck with a big cage driving past. Among the humans inside is Astor, who wakes and shouts to the driver to let him out. The driver knocks him unconscious again, and summons his superior - Colonel Ursus. Fearing a similar fate, Troy clamps a hand over Landis’ mouth as she starts to stir. From his private transport, Lord Zaius arrives - "a princely orangutan with bright orange fur, garbed in the colorful ceremonial robes of a simian Senator. The dominant class of this planet, orangs rule by universally-acknowledged divine right, and Zaius is the alpha male of alpha males, a furry Gordon Gecko, ruthless, calculating and, as apes go, sexually magnetic. The other apes of every rank clear a path when they see him coming". Ursus consults briefly with him and they go to the command tent where Astor lies manacled. “I'm Lord Zaius. You are my prisoner. I'm told you have a trick you wish to perform for us.” “My name is David Astor. Lieutenant Commander, United States Air Force...” Ursus tells Zaius that another human was sighted wearing the same strange garb, but “his hide was dark, like the southern tribes.” Zaius demands answers, provoking a defiant Astor: “Get your filthy paws off me, you damned dirty ape!!” Zaius callously slits Astor’s throat before ordering a compliant Ursus to execute the truck driver. Zaius then calmly shoots the only other witness in the back of the head - Ursus. Troy and Landis are transported in the back of a truck past a mass grave. One of the corpses is Astor. On their journey they see a cross-section of the ape society. A limo carrying a posh orangutan family; a billboard for the cartoon family, "The Simians"; a vast theme park, with a gigantic figure of Mickey Monky; billboards advertising casual wear, with the legend "Gargantua wore Khakis", and for Rhesus Pieces; Banana King; International House of Mango Patties; McCoconuts; a stern gorilla in military garb with the slogan “For Grodd And Country - Elect Colinius to the House of Primates”; "Fetish - the new perfume by Calvinius"; a theatre showing "l2 Monkeys" and Macaque Culkin in "Home Alone 2". It's a parody of American culture and too much of a coincidence to have developed accidentally. “It's a madhouse - a madhouse!” Apes being naturally arboreal, their cities are vertically oriented - storefront stacked upon storefront, five and six deep - and they don't cross the streets on the ground, they use monkeybars suspended over every intersection, clogging the skyline, connecting every home, every business.
On a hilltop above the city, the truck pulls in to the ZRI - the Zoological Research Institute - in the capable paws of Dr. Zira - "a brilliant, dedicated young zoologist, the chimp equivalent of Jane Goodall" - and her assistant Livius. As their gorilla warders, Scipio and Bernardus, lead them into the ZRI with the other humans, they hear the strains of a Mozart string quartet. Zira nicknames Troy ‘Tenderfoot’ on account of his blistered and uncalloused feet. Outside the ZRI, a small group of chimpanzees protest: "Human Rights Now", "Stop the Cruelty", "Animals Have Feelings Too". The leader of the picketers is a handsome young ape named Cornelius who’s radical views got him expelled from the Academy of Science and charged with heresy. Lord Zaius also visits the ZRI to inspect the new consignment from the Mount Calpurnia expedition, where he taunts the new Alpha male, Troy, and leers at Zira - Zaius is rumoured to keep a regular harem at his palace; orangs, chimps, gorillas, even a couple of ‘exotics’. Zira must tolerate him to keep her funding. She later meets Cornelius secretly. Rather than being political opposites they are in fact engaged, and Cornelius has established a hidden colony for the most intelligent of Zira’s humans. Zira considers her two latest additions to be prime candidates and in preparation she arranges for them to be taken to a private indoor stall, stripped naked, and encouraged to mate. Despite their embarrassment and indignity, and to their own surprise, they comply with her wishes.
In an ape cathedral, a perfect mimicry of a Christian service is taking place. There is a great gold-and-silver cross - a plus sign, actually, since apes are noted for their long arms - which hangs over a mighty, booming pipe organ. The congregation is segregated: orangutans in the first few rows; chimps and gorillas behind them on opposite sides of the center aisle; monkeys, exotics etc. relegated to the balcony. The priests and elders (including Zaius) are all orangutans and after the service they discuss the latest events. Zaius reveals that despite having two units combing the area, no trace of the space craft or its wreckage has been found, and judging by the uniforms he believes it was only a two-man expedition. In Zira's apartment, she loads a tape into her VCR to show Cornelius; it’s a recording of ‘Tenderfoot’ and Landis in the mating stall. She is convinced that Troy was aware of the camera and was embarrassed; Cornelius is more distracted by their love-making, which he finds curiously arousing despite them being mere animals. Meanwhile, in the ZRI the video recordings are stopped and ejected as a gorilla cover version of the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" plays. Bernardus and Scipio slink off toward the habitat where a janitor admires this month's centerfold - a female baboon, coyly presenting her hideously inflamed purple hindquarters to the camera. A short time later in a deserted warehouse in the city, baying spectators - working-class gorillas and chimps, mostly - place bets at an illegal fighting pit overseen by a spindly little spider monkey with a zoot suit and a cigar, by the name of Maximus. He challenges anyone in the crowd to take on his champion ‘Brutus the Invincible’ for just 25 sesterces. Scipio and Bernardus step forward leading a figure shrouded with a blanket - Troy. After a severe beating from the mammoth, hairy, drunken gorilla, Troy manages to remove Brutus’ belt and uses it to whip the beast in the eye, blinding him, and then strangle him. Being led away, Troy sees the concerned handlers fail to revive Brutus and is genuinely shocked by his own brutish animal behaviour. The next day Zira immediately notices the punishing Troy received. The two warders have concocted a story about the humans fighting amongst themselves, and the tapes running out at the opportune moment, but Zira sees through their lies and fires them on the spot.
Zira later sneaks Cornelius into the ZRI at night to meet the two unusual humans, ‘Tenderfoot’ and ‘Perky’ (it isn't explained how she acquired this nickname). Cornelius spends some time gauging their level of intelligence with a series of tests. Troy plays along for some time, but finally speaks: “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain”. Following the profound shock to Cornelius and Zira, he introduces himself formally: “Dr. Zira. I apologize. We should have introduced ourselves sooner. I'm Alexander Troy. This is my... fiancée. Dr. Susan Landis.” They discuss their tale at length, but the two apes doubt their story that they came in a flying craft that originated on this planet - apes don't have space travel. “According to the sacred scrolls, we apes are the crowning glory of Grodd's creation. The idea of life on other planets - it's heretical!” Additionally, they maintain that the rapid aging disease is beyond anything the simian mind could devise, and that the classical music they play is the work of the great orangutan composer Phillipus. Troy begins to sense something doesn’t quite add up in this society and asks how long the orangutans have been in control. Zira tells him “It's been this way for five thousand years!” They resolve to move the two humans as soon as possible to Cornelius’ colony on the edge of the Forbidden Zone.
Zaius travels by helicopter to the frozen lake where a massive crane is dragging the enormous spaceship out of a hole in the ice. An enraged Zaius discovers there were five cryo-units. As a result, Zira finds the ZRI padlocked and under quarantine. Nearby, the protesting Cornelius whispers to the astronauts that he plans to bust them out later that night. Before they can carry out their plan, one of the gorilla security guards admits his friends, Scipio and Bernardus. Blaming Troy for their dismissal, they drag him out and tie the blanket around him again. At the warehouse, Maximus is waiting for the gorillas. They enter, and grumble about the opponent he has chosen for Troy’s fight. In the distance, Cornelius’ disguised conspirators demolish part of the perimeter fence of the ZRI and shepherd the confused primitives into a truck. But this is a diversion for the real plan; to smuggle Troy and Landis out of the city in a car. The alarms and sirens that suddenly erupt throughout the city send the fight spectators scurrying away, even Troy’s handlers, who push him into the fight pit as they leave. He staggers around until he frees himself of his cover and then sees a shambling figure in the blackness, a human, dark-skinned - Dodge! Troy rushes forward to greet his old comrade but Dodge's stupefied expression doesn't change until he suddenly charges at Troy like a wild animal. Troy is forced to knock out his friend, and as he kneels over him he sees the surgical scars of an operation on his brain. He hugs the limp body and makes his escape. He dashes wildly through a nightclub with topless gorilla dancers and a karaoke act of an ape Sinatra and an ape Bono; in the alley behind, he spots a bicycle belonging to a chimp, named Caius, who is posting flyers. Caius takes off after him and catches up with him at the same time as the police officers trying to apprehend him. Showing the officers his flyers - “Circus Maximus, The Greatest Show on Orbis Terrae" - Caius convinces them that Troy is his performing animal. He plans to make his fortune from this cycling wonder.
Meanwhile, Cornelius has taken Landis to a craggy, ice-capped mountain ridge adorned with scarecrows, warning signs and barbed-wire fences - the Forbidden Zone, home to mutants and monsters and incurable disease. They make their way along a steep and slippery canyon trail atop furry, llama-like animals. The only ones allowed in here are the orangutan priests, in a kind of purification rite. They come back holy men. Cornelius explains that there is no physiological reason why humans can't speak and that the aim of the colony is to expose the young humans to language almost from birth, and see what takes hold. The chimpanzee scientists and their human guinea-pigs are housed in a hidden cave which also contains an extensive research laboratory. Landis - ill for most of her journey - realises that she is pregnant.
Troy is a hit at the circus as he leads horses around the ring while cycling his bicycle. One performance is to be broadcast live on TV and Troy sees his chance. After he does his routine he turns, faces the audience, and stops. “APES!! Illustrious apes! Learned orangutans, wise chimpanzees, noble gorillas - I thank you for your kind applause. But now I must humbly beg your indulgence to speak! I know my appearance is grotesque... my features bestial, my very scent repulsive to you. Yet I beg you... look beyond this wretched exterior. I am no ordinary man. I come from another world. My name is Alexander Troy. On my world - through some inexplicable twist of fate - it is humans who are blessed with the gift of speech and culture. Yet my people are dying... cursed with a plague we are powerless to fight. And so I come to you, oh apes - with your brilliant achievements in science and the arts - to beg your help. Without your generous assistance, my people are surely doomed. I throw myself humbly before you.” His speech is greeted with stunned silence by the circus audience; fury by Lord Zaius; and relief by Zira. As he finishes, literally on his knees, the assembled orangutans, chimps, and gorillas are moved to a standing ovation. Troy goes from zoo attraction to national hero in record time: crowds mob him; he attends an opera house performance of Rigoletto; the public get behind a proposed ‘Mission of Mercy’ to Earth; the House of Primates urge the House of Lords to throw full resources into finding a cure to the plague; Troy throws out the first pitch at a baseball game; a toy store sells Troy T-shirts and talking Troy dolls. Despite his optimism, Zira cautions Troy against getting his hopes up, and against Landis rejoining him in the city. “Public opinion doesn't mean anything here. The Orangs are not going to build a ‘Mercy Ship’ to send you home. And they won't help Susan find a cure. You're a novelty, Alexander. When the public gets bored with you, they'll make their move. The best thing for Susan is to let her do her work in secrecy.”
Sure enough, the orangutans conspire about how they should deal with the talking human. Troy has become a hero to the chimps and gorillas, and making him a martyr would lead to trouble. Zaius knows that he had a female companion, and that she may be the key to controlling him. In the colony, Landis has made her scientific breakthrough. Studying the genotype of a young primitive girl named Josie, she discovers they are related. Either Landis’ people came here... or Josie’s people came to Earth. The native humans have all got the aging plague in their blood, yet they reproduce and their children grow normally. They are immune because their ancestors survived the original plague in the planet’s prehistory. Cornelius counters that the ape civilisation goes back ten thousand years - to the dawn of time, but Landis is convinced there was a human civilization all but wiped out by the same plague that's killing Earth’s humans now. She eventually pinpoints the chromosomal aberration that makes the primitives immune. It's the same one which retards the speech functions of their brains, but she believes she can cure it. However, she has been spotted by Zaius’ spies and he wastes no time in sending an orangutan military team to capture her, Josie and Cornelius - who is wounded.
Zaius throws a party in his opulent palace. Looking like an ape Hef with his smoking jacket and trio of fawning ape babes, Zaius welcomes Zira and Troy - the guest of honor - and announces that the House of Lords has approved the ‘Mission of Mercy’. Troy is visibly shocked. After the other guests have left, he challenges Zaius, claiming he knew they were coming because they were there to hunt them the moment they landed. Zaius doesn’t disagree with him. “We Orangs are a tiny minority, but we have a pretty sweet deal. The lower orders are happy with their lot... and they accept our divine right to rule… You know, we really weren't all that worried until Sputnik went up... We thought you were going into space! How did we know? We didn't want you coming here with all your equality... social justice... wars, riots, revolutions...” The orangutans sent the plague to protect their elevated status; genocide - “Another bright idea we stole from you.” Troy attacks Zaius but Zaius tells him not only that he has Landis, but that she is pregnant with his child. Later he sadly tells Zira that he has been a father before. He was divorced and his thirteen-year-old son was to spend a weekend with him, but Troy postponed it because of work, and so the boy went on a rafting trip and was killed. Impulsively, Zira kisses him.
Zaius and his orangutan-only retinue go to the Forbidden Zone, where the mammoth black moth-winged Mercy Ship has been constructed and is being tested. He heads to his base - an enormous glass dome over a shaft almost half a mile wide. A hundred feet below the dome, dug out of the surrounding glacial mountain, lies the ancient City of Olympus - the last surviving vestige of the human civilization. Inside are computers and electronic gear, all operated by orangutans. One studies airplane design on his computer screen; another, wearing headphones, is conducting an invisible orchestra; a third is watching a video screen, taking copious notes on Laurence Olivier in "Henry V"; a fourth is watching "The Brady Bunch", scribbling notes just as furiously. Landis sits glumly watching news transmissions from Earth. Human society is disintegrating, bit by bit, before her glassy, helpless gaze. Zaius gloatingly dances into her presence. “We all get the urge to boogie down. And the news is just too depressing, don't you agree? What you're seeing is five years old, of course. It takes that long for the transmissions to reach us from Earth… Human nature, I suppose. Not happy unless you're destroying yourselves. Look at the bunch that built this place. Masters of the universe, every technological marvel you could ask for, and what happens? Some asshole in a lab cooks up a plague, and PHHFFT! Ta-ta, au revoir, hasta la vista. - I do hope they fired his sorry ass.”
While Cornelius languishes in a cell, Landis has been allowed to continue her research in the Olympus laboratories. Zaius believes the futile work will keep her occupied and out of trouble. She asks that he take a letter to Troy, and also take the girl Josie, as she is in need of medical care in the city. Zaius obliges, and predictably reads the letter as soon as he is alone, searching for conspiracy. He finds only a simple message of hope and affection. Troy, however, finds another meaning in one sentence: "The girl is one of my experimental subjects. She has a nasty virus which I hope Zira can cure. Her name is Josie and she likes to play horsie. I know you do too... I love you, Troy. Yours always, Susan.” Pondering why she has called him ‘Troy’ rather than ‘Alexander’, he somehow deduces that she is referring the Wooden Horse of Troy, and that Josie holds the means to defeat Zaius. Zira jabs a syringe into Josie's backside and fills it with blood. At the next cathedral service, Troy and Zira seem both nervous and intense. After a communal cup is passed among the orangutan elders, the High Priest goes into a violent coughing fit and collapses. The concerned elders take him to his quarters before they begin to show similar symptoms. An orangutan messenger informs Lord Zaius that some kind of epidemic has also swept through the entire Olympus base. They summon Troy, who tells them they will be dead in a matter of days, unless they take him to Landis and transmit her research to Earth. This new virus doesn't affect chimps, gorillas or humans.
At the Olympus base, orangutan guards are dying everywhere. Troy emerges from a jet, followed by Zira and Josie, Zaius and the elders. The Mercy Ship is already prepared for passengers, built from the designs of the ancient race of humans which the orangutans have spent the last ten thousand years plundering. Cornelius appears, carrying a small vial of antidote - enough for one. Zaius wins the scramble for the vial, downs it, then pulls out a tiny microphone. “Now!” Suddenly the skies are full of at least a dozen flying gorillas wearing jet-packs and firing machine guns. Troy and Zira take cover and begin returning fire. Josie positions herself next to the guns and when the elders move towards her to arm themselves she utters her first word - “Mine!” - and opens fire, mowing down all but Zaius. A helicopter closes in and fires near the Mercy Ship, knocking Zira into the snow. Cornelius jumps into the cockpit of the orangutan’s jet and starts moving towards the helicopter. The ailing High Priest inside asks Cornelius where he is going - “Straight to hell... Your Holiness.” The jet rams into the helicopter and the explosion sends flaming wreckage through the dome and into the ruins of the ancient city. Landis manages to get most of the colony humans to the safety of the Mercy Ship. Troy makes it aboard to join Landis, Zira and Josie in the bridge. The ship lifts off, splattering the rest of the flying apes like bugs on a windshield as it accelerates into the stratosphere. But then something goes wrong with the oxygen supply, and when Troy examines the engine room, he gets a nasty surprise: Lord Zaius has stowed aboard and is disabling the oxygen tanks. Troy chases him into the ships airlock where they both grab onto mesh webbing as Zaius hits the switch. They cling on, fighting each other in their silent, airless, dying moments, until Troy remembers Stewart’s fate: he rakes his fingernails across Zaius' face, tearing strips of flesh. Zaius takes off like a punctured balloon as every last drop of his blood spews out into the vacuum of space. Seconds from suffocation, Troy is rescued by the space-suited Zira.
Seven years pass aboard the ship as it returns to Earth. This time, there are food supplies to keep the crew and passengers out of cryo-units. A bearded and graying Troy sits at the pilot's console watching Earth’s sun as he broadcasts their story to anyone who might be listening. Landis has devised a mutagen to counteract the plague while onboard the ‘Bellerophon’. Their six-year-old son Jack has never seen Earth. Then the speakers finally begin to crackle. “Calling Bellerophon... calling Bellerophon. This is Dr. James Adkins of the SETI Institute in New York... Transmission received. The mutagen is a success. Repeat, the mutagen works! Send your coordinates so we can lock on. A hero's welcome awaits you!” The instrument panel reads ‘Earth Date: 09/17/2073’ as they glide over the Earth landscape. The ship whizzes over the New York harbor, past a familiar, iconic figure, and touches down gently. Troy can hear the excitement, the laughter, the cheering, but it strikes him that the crowd noise takes on an odd, almost savage tone, and all the members of the ground crew share an odd, hunched posture. By the time the vehicles arrive, Troy can make out the faces of the passengers; they're apes. Troy pulls his family into a protective embrace as he sees the spectators are all apes too; jumping, chattering, squealing for blood! Armed apes surround the group and a gorilla in a general's uniform extends a hand... “Dr. Troy. Welcome home.” We return to the skyline of Manhattan and see again the Statue of Liberty: she has undergone radical plastic surgery; her once-proud porcelain features have been crudely chiselled into the grotesque likeness of a great grinning ape.
Although Hamm's script used Terry Hayes' screenplay as a starting point - with an 'aging virus', investigated by a female specialist from the Center for Disease Control - the main section of the story returned to a more recognizable version of Planet of the Apes than hayes had depicted. Once again, our heroes travel by means of space/time dilation, rather than through chemical DNA manipulation. They find themselves on an alien planet, reviving Boulle's original concept, and they encounter variations of the apes familiar to fans of the original movies. Zira remains the compassionate link to the ape world; Cornelius, her principled and inquisitive partner; the plot reflects the classic tale of Ulysse Mérou, forced to endure the treatment of an animal in the laboratories of the apes, revealing his true identity to Zira, becoming a celebrity feted by the ape population, contending with the conspiracies of the reactionary Zaius, making a desperate escape back to Earth, and discovering his home planet has gone the same way in his absence. Where the story differed was principally in it's central characters: rather than an heroic male figure and a mute savage woman, troy and Landis represented an era of greater equality, with the two enjoying almost the same status and screen-time. Zaius was a very different character from either the stuffy academic of Boulle's novel or the sly politician of the original movie. Hamm's Zaius was by contrast a young, charismatic, ruthless and utterly unprincipled villain. He lacked any of the subtlety of his previous incarnations; the loud and brash dialogue given to him seems out of context in a Planet of the Apes movie, but of course this was intended as an update of the concept, and a more dramatic villain was deemed appropriate. The elements which parody Earth culture have been cited as some of the weaker points in the story, but the basic concept is that the ape society is just a slightly twisted mockery of Earth, and that idea requires a close approximation of names and images familiar to the audience. The obligatory references to the earlier movies were included, such as character names (even Ursus, Brutus and Maximus get a brief mention), the most famous lines of dialogue re-used, and the Statue of Liberty shown at the conclusion, but they were mostly done in a tasteful way which didn't distract from the faithful interpretation of Boulle's powerful original storyline. It was among the better script suggestions, not least because it stayed close to that concept, and it likewise ended on a depressing but thought-provoking note.
Stan Winston Studios continued to work on the ape makeup designs and spent a large amount of time on research and development work, according to one insider. "The makeup that was designed for the tests was really pretty impressive. Stan and his son made a demo reel of improvisational stuff in the makeup under the direction of Chris Columbus. It was great." Ousted producer Don Murphy heard that "After they got rid of us, they brought on Chris Columbus. Then I heard they did tests of apes skiing, which didn't make much sense." Arnold Schwarzenegger remained attached to star over the course of the summer of 1995, but after Hamm's script failed to meet Fox's approval, Columbus dropped out in late 1995 to work on Jingle All the Way, starring Schwarzenegger.
- The names of the human astronauts are based on the crew members from the 1968 movie. Dodge's namesake is again the only dark-skinned human the apes have encountered, though this time he suffers the fate of Landon; Weldon Stewart dies during the hibernation stage of the interstellar journey, as did the female Stewart; 'Al Troy' is an anagram of 'Taylor', and conveniently also contains the vital clue for smuggling the virus that will destroy the orangutans; 'Landis' is presumably taken from 'Landon'.
- The ship slipping through the ice on the frozen lake recalls the crash from the first movie, as does the planting of the tiny flag.
- The descriptions of the Ape City hark back to those in Boulle's novel and those in the early script treatments by Rod Serling for the 1968 movie.
- Sam Hamm's Planet of the Apes, at Sci Fi and Fantasy Movie Scripts
- Planet of the Apes (1995 screenplay) Review