I'm confused by the final scene in the Planet of the Apes film (2001, not the recent Rise film).

Leo lands on Earth in his own time to find it run by the Apes. How does this happen?

  • I'm assuming that the Ape planet they're on for the majority of the film is not Earth, as we're certainly not given any reason to believe it is Earth that I can tell. The ship makes a point of telling him he's landing on Earth which it hasn't elsewhere. If it is however we're led to believe it's many years in the future.
  • Leo travels back in time from the future alien world to Earth (you can see the clock counting down when he's flying)
  • There's a statue to Thade instead of Lincoln

This implies either that the clock is wrong and this was Earth all along, his navigation is broken, he's going forward in time at the end, not back, and Ape society has mirrored human history.

This is a parallel Earth of some kind.

Or that somehow Thade managed to escape from a locked room on a crashed ship with no fuel (or use Leo's originally crashed pod?). Take off, fly through the storm and arrive on Earth at some time in Earth's history then take over the entire planet?

What was the logic behind this scene? There must be a reason for it being in the film?

  • 1
    Related question over on Sci-fi&Fantasy.SE.
    – user209
    Apr 12, 2012 at 14:24
  • 2
    The film has faulty logic throughout. I mean, Marky Mark can't land his ship right either time (and he's a trained pilot), but Caesar makes a perfect 3-point landing on the first go? Oct 31, 2014 at 0:56
  • 1
    The tag wiki for "planet-of-the-apes" does say it is 1968-1973, but shouldn't there be a tag for the whole franchise (the franchise has the same name, "Planet of the Apes")? E.g. like "star-wars"? Nov 2, 2019 at 3:24

5 Answers 5


It's been a few years since I've seen that movie but the actual DVD cover had an insert that showed a time map to help make sense of the movie. It is two different planets as it was in the original novel Monkey Planet and Mark Walhberg does end up back on Earth (not a duplicate Earth) in the current time. Apparently the time vortex works in reverse so that the first one in is the last one out. The space ship Oberon goes in last but has crashed thousands of years in the past. It was originally planned to have at least a sequel which would have explained the current Earth better.

http://voices.yahoo.com/the-return-planet-apes-8931359.html The ending of Burton's film confused just about everyone, so much so that when the DVD was released it included a chart explaining how the apes on the planet were able to build their own space ship, enter the vortex, end up in Earth's past, and end up dominating that planet as well. The problem here, without the chart the ending makes no sense.


In lieu of finding anything official on the matter, my own interpretation of the film was that it did indeed take place on Earth throughout the story - just a parallel dimension Earth.

If you hold to any multiverse theories, and the nature of infinity, then we will be discussing this film an infinite number times in an infinite number of ways - a 'how long would it take a hundred chimps to write a film script?' kind of thing. To that end, there are an infinite number of possible outcomes to the story, and Leo just landed on one of them.

I personally saw the film as an exploration of 'possible Earths' caused by a wormhole, 'rip in the fabric of space' or some other wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff. Leo landed on one possible Earth, then another. We might assume there are an infinite number of other versions too.

As for the logic behind the end scene - I think the producers (including Burton) felt like they needed their 'Statue of Liberty' shot - and the Lincoln Memorial seemed to suffice. It's just a throwaway zinger to end the film - whether it works or not is a matter of personal taste.

If you are at all interested in the making of Burton's film, here is a terrific excerpt from the book Tales From Development Hell: The Greatest Movies Never Made? which was recently highlighted on wired.com - it's fascinating reading.

  • 2
    Sneaky Doctor Who reference in there! :-)
    – Liath
    Apr 13, 2012 at 14:56

enter image description hereThat's not earth that they're on during the body of the film. There are 2 moons in the sky above the ape encampment at the 1:01:15 marker.

  • if its a parallel universe earth can have 2 moons as well. Apr 3, 2014 at 3:40

My interpretation of this is that the planet he was on throughout the movie is the same planet he lands on in the end. This has to be the case because of the Lincoln Memorial that states "The memory of General Thade is enshrined forever". There are no alternate Earths.

There is much left to the imagination here (I didnt read books so I am only going by what I saw in the film) but you were led to believe that the apes and humans would live together in peace before Leo left to find the storm. Somehow somewhere, something went terribly wrong. There are no humans in the end scene which makes you think the apes took over again at some point...I think it's because Thade escaped the ship and took back over the planet...this time wiping out all humans. Also Thade understood the "power of invention" as his father warned of the humans. Once Thade took back over and killed all humans he embraced the idea of technology which is why you see apes in end scene as humans (fireman, police, weapons, etc). It's the only thing that makes sense to me.


In fact it's not confusing. For my analysis, the astronaut did not make it to go back to the real earth. He entered the wrong path, a sort of time travel. He just landed on the future of The Planet of Apes.

He need to use another spaceship and go back to the real earth... The ending left its viewers to ask for more. We want a sequel of this film and not a reboot, just like Rise of the Planet of the Apes... very disappointing!

  • 3
    Could you explain your analysis? The answer does not help without it.
    – Stefan
    Nov 14, 2012 at 16:43
  • I think she meant that when Leo went through the vortex, he ended up even further in the future (I guess his chronometer was faulty or overflowed or something), and history on Ashlar somehow played out very similar as it did on Earth, such that Washington D.C. existed much like it did on Earth, including the same monuments, except for apes instead of humans.
    – Synetech
    Apr 22, 2016 at 3:28

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