Conquest of the Planet of the Apes

June 11, 2016 at 2:18 pm Leave a comment

I would like to start with a bit of editorializing. This has bothered me for years. Shouldn’t this movie be called Battle for the Planet of the Apes and the next one be called Conquest? The word ‘conquest’ suggests to me a sense of finality. Where as the word ‘battle’ suggest one skirmish in an overall conflict. The planet is not conquered by the apes in this movie. In the next film, the planet is conquered but not necessarily in the way one would expect. It’s a small matter that in no way interferes with the enjoyment of this movie.

I had seen this movie twice lately. Once was on television and the other was an unrated version on the blu-ray set. I had not previously seen this version of the film but for fans of the series I highly recommend this set. The special features are well worth it. If you have not seen this film, I will warn you that the unrated version has more blood and a different ending. It is worth it to watch the original version first because that flows better with the next film.

We begin this film in the spectacular future of 1991. There is not a drop of Crystal Pepsi to be found so this really is a dystoptia. Armando, the circus owner from Escape played by Richardo Montalbon, takes Caesar to the big city for the purposes of promoting his circus. Caesar is the son of Cornelius and Zira. His name was Milo when he was born in the previous film but it has been changed for reasons that are never explained.  The plague that wiped out all of the cats and dogs on Earth, as mentioned in the previous movie, has happened and the apes are trained servants of humanity. All of Cornelius’s predictions of the future are info dumped in the first five minutes of the movies by Armando as he explains to Caesar why he must play dumb while they are in the city. Human all around are incredibly cruel to the apes they have trained to do mundane tasks. Caesar witnesses all of this and shouts “Lousy human bastards!” Armando plays it off as if he said it but many people believe it was Caesar who spoke. Caesar goes into hiding while Armando is arrested. Eventually, he is tortured and dies. The Governor of this place is very paranoid that a talking ape could exist and subjugate humanity. Having seen Zira and Cornelius’s testimony from the previous film, he has irrational hatred for the apes. Governor Breck’s assistant is a black man named MacDonald. He has deep problems with what the government is doing to apes. MacDonald has sympathy for the apes and does what he can from his position to make things easier for them. He does have to play this off with a certain cold detachment. I love how the movie portrays his character. MacDonald doesn’t like what is going on but he doesn’t feel like he has the power to change it so he has worked his way towards the seat of power in order to bring about small change in whatever ways he can.

Caesar is sold into slavery and the Governor buys him. Through this experience, he starts a rebellion. The apes begin amassing weapons and waiting for their moment to strike. That moment eventually comes. The apes overwhelm the humans in a very bloody battle. This is a truncated account of events but I would like to avoid too many spoilers. You really should watch this movie for yourself. The apes have won the day but the conquest is not complete. The apes gaining the upper hand on humans happens between movies.

Of all the Apes films, this movie did the most with cinematography and production design. They had to make this film look futuristic and authoritarian. To that means, they were successful. Most of this film was made in Century City, which if you have been to the Los Angeles area, is very distinct in appearance. They did a good job of covering it up so that you didn’t immediately identify this was filmed in Los Angeles. This should not be taken for granted. I always get a laugh when watching the Halloween or Nightmare on Elm Street movies, which allegedly take place in Illinois  even though there are palm trees and rolling hills in the background. Conquest did a good job of covering this up and making an office park look like a jackbooted, ape hating city in the future. The dress for the humans and apes is very noticeable in its contrast. The humans dress in all black, the apes wear the only color to be found in this city. That makes them immediately identifiable. The way this movie was film also really helped tell the story. In this film, apes will rise up and attack their human masters. You need to get an audience of humans to cheer against their own kind. This is all accomplished through visual storytelling. They employed small film making tricks that you didn’t notice but you brain did. That they were able to pull all of this off on a budget of $1.7 million is nothing short of amazing. They did rely on some on the nose dialogue and heavy handed symbolism at points of the film but they didn’t lean on those Technics too much so I can forgive that somewhat.

I really have no idea how this holds up as a stand alone film. I can only imagine that the only reason someone would watch this film is that they saw the previous movies and are watching the series to completion. Without the proper context, this would all seem strange to someone stumbling across the movie while channel surfing. You really should watch the previous films before diving into this one. That isn’t really a knock on the movie. It’s part four of a five part series. That this point in any series, one needs some context to really appreciate what is going on.


Entry filed under: Science Fiction. Tags: , , , , .

Escape from the Planet of the Apes Battle for the Planet of the Apes

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