While the Planet of the Apes 2001 movie requires a certain science fiction like leap of faith throughout to swallow, the ending presents an even more peculiar situation to explain. Astronaut Leo crash lands on a planet other than Earth in which Apes dominate human kind due to the crashlanding of his spacestation and its crew of humans and primates. But at the movie's end Leo travels through an electromagnetic storm that leads him back in time to what appears to be his home planet of Earth in the past. While landing he is directed to land and crashes in what resembles Washington, DC the capital of the United States. He then looks up to see the Lincoln Monument is now a monument of a chimpanzee, General Thad whom the statue is dedicated to. If this planet is Earth that Leo landed on then just how did Apes become dominant and assume human culture, while humans appear to have been eradicated. There are a few possibilities, and lots of people are trying to make sense of this ending, which appears to be thrown in just to give a twist inspite of the lack of logic the ending has.
The possibilities for explaining the ending are numerous, but include:
Astronaut Leo does not land on Planet Earth even though he thinks he does. Instead he lands on the planet he just left from only arriving farther into its future.
This may seem unlikely, but if Astronaut Leo traversed the electromagnetic void and arrived back at his original Ape planet in the future it is possible that during that time Thade escaped and gained control of the Semos problem and galavanized his kind to destroy humanity. After humanity is wiped out Thade sets about to mimic the great civilization that he could have viewed via the computers of the Oberon that captured all of Earth's electromagnetic broadcasts according to its crew.
Astronaut Leo arrives on a Planet other than the Earth or the Ape world he left from.
If Astronaut Leo travels to the coordinates in his former chimps pod, then the coordinates would probably be stored onboard the crashed Oberon space station. Shortly after Leo leaves for what he thinks is the Earth, Thade travels to this location as well. Because of the way the film portrays time travel he arrives on the planet before Leo does and perhaps with a small group populates the planet or brings civilization to any native ape creatures on the planet. From that point Thade recreates the culture of man he could have viewed during his time trapped onboard the Oberon via the computer situated in the corner of his cell.
General Thad escapes his captivity and leads a group of Apes in a pursuit to conquer the Earth before humanity was strong via timetravel. Astronaut Leo then arrives on Earth to see the results of this conquest.
This is how many people believe the ending will be explained in a sequel. As the film ends, General Thad is trapped in a small room onboard the former space station Oberon he can not escape from with the gun he has. In the corner of the room one can see a computer. During the space station Oberon's travels near the electromagnetic disturbance in space all of the television broadcasts of the Earth were being intercepted according to its crew. If these incoming transmissions from Earth's past were strored onboard a computer network of the space station then in theory Thade could retrieve them and learn all about humanity's history from the computer in the corner of his cell. With this knowledge its only a small leap of faith to assume that Thade somehow escapes his cell with the coordinates to Earth. From there he could have either retrieved the crashed space veseel that Astronaut Leo used to reach the Ape world, or fly the entire crashed spash station via some unknown onboard power supply to Earth's past. Since on this planet the Lincoln Memorial is of Thade, one could presume that Thade traveled to some period of time during the US Civil War. With the knowledge of modern laser weapons and flying vehicles, Thade and a small force could in theory have overwhelmed human beings fighting with breech loading weapons and conquer the Earth with time. Thade could have also just traveled 10,000 years back or so and created his own civilization which would have vanquished the then slowly emerging human one. Then with the knowlege of human history Thade would recreate via mimicry what he saw via Earth's electromagnetic broadcasts.
The ending (or entire movie after Leo leaves the spacestation) is a dream, story, or some other contraption which will have no validity in future sequels.
It might seem silly to assume that ending or much of the film is in fact a dream or story. But if one looks at the original novel that the movie is based on then this is indeed possible. In the original Planet of the Apes novel by Pierre Boulle the entire tale is about a bottle found with a story inside which is discovered by a couple who are enjoying time in space. The story tells them of a group of space explorers who land on an alien world to explore it with a smaller craft. They left their giant home space vessel orbiting the planet they explored (much as Astronaut Leo thought his space station was orbiting the planet he landed on at one point.) By the end of the story only one man survives who travels to Earth which should be several hundred years into the future because of the science of spacetravel. Upon arriving on Earth, Apes rule it. The couple who discovered the story in a bottle conclude "A likely story. It just shows there are poets everywhere in every corner of the cosmos, and practical jokers too." Of course it is doubtful this will be used as an explanation for the bizarre ending of the movie, but its possible if one looks at the novel the original Apes saga sprung forth from.
All that has to be true in regards to the movie for this scenario to come into play is for Leo to have become unconcious during his time in the electromagnetic storm. He could have dreamed arriving on the Ape world, and dreamed his crash landing. Then for a new movie he would awake in space and the story could continue anyway desired.
Taken from www.movieprop.com