Eric’s Guide To Watching the ‘Planet of the Apes’ Series
6.) “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes”
Well after mentioning the history of the ape uprising in the last film, they felt they needed to tell that story. It’s a fairly straightforward story. Caesar gets captured in a future society where humans enslave apes. He gets mistreated, forms a plan to overthrow the humans and does it. Movie over. Other than that there’s not much to say about the film aside from the obvious political angle of the apes representing minorities and the race riots of the 70s. It is certainly the darkest of the series. In fact, it is the only film in the original series rated PG as opposed to G. Roddy McDowall returns this time playing his own son. While he and the character of Cornelius are fine in the other films this one really lets him shine. Normally when you think of Roddy McDowall you tend to thing of nice guys. The character of Caesar goes to some dark places in this film and it’s great to see McDowall get to stretch as an actor.
The final speech is just chilling. So much so that they had to water it down. Caesar makes a big speech about taking over. Then, something changes his mind and through some obvious editing gives a second speech about how the apes are going to try to work together with the humans… lame. It really sucks out all the momentum the film had going. Although credit where it’s due the thing that changes his mind is interesting. In the last film they mention that a big moment in human-ape relation was the first time an ape dared to say, “NO.” “Rise” did this moment basically how you’d expect it to go down. Because of the new ending they have the female ape love interest say “No” to Caesar making him see a better way. If you subscribe to the idea that the series isn’t a time loop, but starting from “Escape” onward is a new timeline forming then this a really important moment. Again it’s a shame they had to lighten up the ending, but if you’re going to do that then at least do something unexpected like that.
Eric’s advice: A fun film but may be a little too dated for some. If you can watch a version that restores the original version then definitely watch it.
7.) “Beneath of the Planet of the Apes”
“Beneath the Planet of the Apes” is an interesting one. It feels the most closely connected to the original of all the sequels. You could almost believe that they filmed this at the same time as they did the other film. However that’s not the case, but they did rush out a sequel so luckily they still had a lot of the sets and make-up ready to go. They have almost all the actors back except Roddy McDowall as Cornelius. Although with the make-up and the fact the actor they did get sounds very similar it’s hard to notice. In the making of documentary they talk about how the main directive for this film was trying to one up the last film’s twist ending. I’ll give them credit there are a lot of interesting ideas/visuals. We have apes being crucified on the scarecrow things from the last film. Also, a buried New York city. And of course we have the skinless telepathic mutants that worship a bomb. All of these are interesting, they really had their creative juices flowing. However, because there is so much none of them can be focused on enough. It all ends up making the film seem kind of dull.
Eric’s advice: Some of the interesting concepts can make this a fun watch but does NOT hold up for a second viewing.
8.) “Battle For the Planet of the Apes”
It’s honestly a toss-up between this and remake as to which is worse. I guess I’m putting this above as it is a shorter film. It clearly has no real aspirations it exists solely to get one more film out while it was still profitable. I said “Conquest” was simple, but man is this one truly straightforward. Apes decide to go investigate a bombed out city. The pre-mutants from “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” march after to try to destroy the apes. An evil gorilla kills Caesar’s son and they have a final fight at the end. It has the same director from the last, but never any of the life. It’s a very boring film that feels more like a made-for-TV movie. The most interesting part is the casting with Paul Williams and Caesar’s sidekick and John Huston as the Lawgiver. What’s especially interesting is that this is a character that was mentioned in earlier films. Other than that it’s really hard to even remember much that happens in this film.
Eric’s advice: Unless you want to fall asleep, skip!
9.) “Planet of the Apes” (2001)
Ain’t it weird how this same film (sorta) begins and ends this list. My least favorite film of Tim Burton and in my opinion his worst film. I hadn’t seen the original, but when I saw this I felt as though all the interesting aspects of this plot were glossed over. It’s the textbook example of a movie that just seems to go through the motions. Then I saw the Charlton Heston version and it was a revelation, so much better. A lot of people say things like “why did they pick Burton to direct this, his style is all wrong.” I wouldn’t agree with that because it deals with typical Burton themes of isolation and the outsider looking in on a society they aren’t in or don’t understand. The pre-production is telling. This is one of those films where every big name director signed at some point. All left for one reason or another. As James Cameron put it they didn’t give Tim enough time to work on it and make it his own. Even visually (Burton’s best part) it’s lackluster. The future and this ape society should have looked great. Instead, it’s just meh. That is this film’s greatest crime in a nutshell. It’s boring. Danny Elfman’s score and Rick Baker’s AMAZING make-up are the only good things about it.
Eric’s advice: Skip it, there are better Burton and Apes films out there.