War for the Planet of the Apes is another Planet of the Apes sequel that completely abandons the human characters that were introduced in the previous movie. So what exactly happened to Jason Clarke’s character of Malcolm from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes?
This is not something that is explained in the film itself. But director Matt Reeves recently said during an interview on the Happy Sad Confused podcast via Screen Rant that in the script for War for the Planet of the Apes, it was explained that Woody Harrelson’s The Colonel killed Malcolm.
That would have been revealed during a sequence between The Colonel and Caesar. The Colonel would say that when he first got to the city, a man told him how important it was to find Caesar and create peace with him because he is a great leader. The Colonel would say that at first he thought this man was crazy, but he now sees what he meant.
Reeves explained on the podcast, “…Caesar says, ‘Well, what happened to him?’ And The Colonel said, ‘I killed him.’ Caesar is perplexed and asks why, and The Colonel says, ‘His ideas were very dangerous because the ideas were like a virus and they could spread to others, and right now this is a fight for humanity.’ So that’s what happened.”
This did not end up making it into the movie, but Matt Reeves certainly makes it sound as if this is still the intended explanation for Malcolm’s absence, especially considering he says “so that’s what happened” rather than “so that’s what would have happened.” Reeves ended up cutting this scene simply because he felt the confrontation between Caesar and The Colonel was not organic, not necessarily because he changed his mind about the fate of Malcolm.
Both of the sequels in this rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise have been missing the human character from the previous film, and neither film has done much to explain what happened to him. In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, James Franco’s character of Will Rodman from Rise of the Planet of the Apes is gone, and it’s never explicitly said where he went. We can presume that he probably died off screen due to the virus like most of humanity did, especially because we visit Rodman’s house and find it to be abandoned. However, it’s never technically said whether he died or whether he simply abandoned the house during the fall of humanity and is still out there somewhere.