REVIEW: BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (1973)

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The Lawgiver: In the beginning God created beast and man so that both might live in friendship and share dominion over a world of peace. But in the fullness of time evil men betrayed God’s trust and in disobedience to His holy word waged bloody wars, not only against their own kind, but against the apes, whom they reduced to slavery. Then God in his wrath sent the world a saviour, miraculously born of two apes who descended on Earth from Earth’s own future and man was afraid for both parent apes possessed the power of speech.

Director: J. Lee Thompson

Cast: Roddy McDowall, Claude Akins, Natalie Trundy, Austin Stoker

Synopsis: As Cornelius struggles to keep life peaceful between ape and man, a reckless militant gorilla named Aldo pushes war between the remaining humans on earth and the apes.

Review:

A rather underwhelming final chapter to the Planet of the Apes series which began with 1968’s brilliant original starring Charlton Heston. This seventies based series has a complicated history both on and behind the screens. However all of the apes films were popular box office draws for Fox Studios during the seventies, with all of the films directed at families and sci-fi aficionados. The series popularised smart science fiction with social commentary, interesting characters and jaw-dropping twists in each film. Battle for the Planet of the Apes unfortunately ends the series with a whimper. The plot revolves around Cornelius ruling a peaceful society where apes are the superior species and man helps out with laborious chores wearing scrappy torn clothes. Some humans allowed in Cornelius’s close quarters give insight to Cornelius regarding the ethics of society. The film overall looks a lot cheaper than previous entries, with costumes looking at an all-time low with the many apes wondering around the screen. The lighting is often bright and most of the scenes take place during sunny days which doesn’t do favours for the appearance of the apes. Militant gorilla Aldo looks the worst in a clearly plastic mask that doesn’t quite move right when he speaks. Cornelius fares better in his ape costume however also struggles with speech and emotion, unlike previous films where he looked quite good.

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The plot is quite basic and the title is quite misleading as one would expect the apes in an all out war with humans eventually creating the Planet of the Apes that we saw in the original. Instead the plot deals with Cornelius struggling with power and going on a search for his parents lost tapes that they filmed in the previous Escape from the Planet of the Apes. Militant gorilla Aldo causes most of the drama as he dislikes humans mixing with apes and wishes for them all to be destroyed. This leads to an inevitable battle between the apes with unsurprising results.

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Director J. Lee Thompson has lost the innovation he displayed in the previous film, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, which was quite dark and violent in tone. In this film he shoots mostly in the light and creates dull action set pieces that look phony and outdated even for the seventies. Perhaps the worst entry in the entire Planet of the Apes franchise. I would give this a miss and move on to the recent reboots instead.

Rating: 1 Star

*Check out reviews for other films in this series below or follow the links.

REVIEW: CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (1972)

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MacDonald: Caesar… Caesar! This is not how it was meant to be.
Caesar: In your view or mine?
MacDonald: Violence prolongs hate, hate prolongs violence. By what right are you spilling blood?
Caesar: By the slave’s right to punish his persecutor.
MacDonald: I, a decedent of slaves am asking you to show humanity.
Caesar: But, I was not born human.
MacDonald: I know. The child of the evolved apes.
Caesar: Whose children shall rule the earth.
MacDonald: For better or for worse?
Caesar: Do you think it could be worse?
MacDonald: Do you think this riot will win freedom for all your people? By tomorrow…
Caesar: By tomorrow it will be too late. Why a tiny, mindless insect like the emperor moth can communicate with another over a distance of 80 miles…
MacDonald: An emperor ape might do slightly better?
Caesar: Slightly? What you have seen here today, apes on the 5 continents will be imitating tomorrow.
MacDonald: With knives against guns? With kerosene cans against flamethrowers?
Caesar: Where there is fire, there is smoke. And in that smoke, from this day forward, my people will crouch and conspire and plot and plan for the inevitable day of Man’s downfall – the day when he finally and self-destructively turns his weapons against his own kind. The day of the writing in the sky, when your cities lie buried under radioactive rubble! When the sea is a dead sea, and the land is a wasteland out of which I will lead my people from their captivity! And we will build our own cities in which there will be no place for humans except to serve our ends! And we shall found our own armies, our own religion, our own dynasty! And that day is upon you… now!

Director: J. Lee Thompson

Cast: Roddy McDowall, Don Murray, Ricardo Montalban

Synopsis: In a futuristic world that has embraced ape slavery, Caesar, the son of the late simians Cornelius and Zira, surfaces after almost twenty years of hiding out from the authorities, and prepares for a slave revolt against humanity.

Review:

The film begins in a grim looking 1991, with now grown ape, Caesar, discussing the plight of the apes with his owner/mentor Armando (Ricardo Montalban). We discover that since the dogs and cats have been wiped out by a deadly virus, apes have become groomed to replace them as home pets. However as time went on the apes became used as slaves rather than pets. They are used to clean the house, prepare dinner, etc. Eventually they became used for more menial jobs such as janitors, waiters and cleaners. The parallels to the plight of minorities in America are quite heavy handed in these scenes.

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Caesar however who was born from Cornelius and Zira in the previous film has advanced skills and knowledge and has already evolved to a more humanoid ape similar to his parents who were from the future. Caesar eventually has to mix with the common apes and instead of obeying the humans he starts an uprising and gets the apes to fight back and escape their grim current predicament.

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Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is a much more thrilling adventure, darker in tone that the previous film, Escape from the Planet of the Apes. Caesar’s uprising is both shockingly violent and dark considering the film was produced for families. However this helps the film rise above previous instalments and stand on its own as both a prequel and sequel to the original Planet of the Apes. Roddy McDowall excels as Caesar and his impassioned speech in the closing act is perhaps the best scene in the entire franchise.

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With sharp direction from J. Lee Thompson and a thrilling score from Tom Scott, Conquest delivers everything you love about this franchise, social commentary, brilliant action set pieces and many twists and turns.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

REVIEW: ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES (1971)

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“Wedded” – Angry priest after discovering future apes got married.

Director: Don Taylor

Cast: Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Bradford Dillman

Synopsis: After crash landing on earth, Zira, Cornelius and Dr Milo discover a planet ruled by humans.

Review:

After the shocking finale of Beneath the Planet of the Apes, this film had nowhere to go but the time travel route. With shades of Lost Season 5 and Austin Powers this film mixes smart sci-fi with inane comedy.

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The film opens with a spacecraft drifting in the sea. Soon we discover that Cornelius, Zira and (new ape?) Dr Milo have crash-landed on earth in the past, prior to the rise of the planet of the apes. Their destination is in fact the 1970s, with the retro funky soundtrack and comedic tone this franchise has found itself in a new direction, one vastly different to the two films preceding it. It is not for the better, nor the worst, merely an interesting side trip with two characters we have learnt to love over the past installments. From the opening scenes we can see that the ape costume design and make-up effects don’t translate as well in a modern setting away from the post-apocalyptic ape future. Also the apes find themselves in a predicament that is a stark contrast of how the characters were treated in the previous films.

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Zira and Cornelius discover that humans once ruled the earth and find themselves trapped in a zoo only to be tested on and researched. Although not as violently as Charlton Heston’s Taylor was in the original. Soon the two apes are welcomed into society and are the talk of the town as everyone wishes to get to know these two apes.

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Their welcome is soon turned to darker terrain as Dr Hasslein (Eric Braeden), fears for his planets future as Zira confesses how the ape war ended.

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This is smart sci-fi, only it’s mixed with silly humour and obnoxious characters that it can’t succeed as the previous films did. With its lack of action and twists, the film is enjoyable however after the last two entries it fails to rise above.

Rating: 2 Stars