Planet of the Apes Marathon.
Saturday, as I was working on my art work, I watched the Planet of the Apes Marathon on AMC. Ever since I was a kid I was a big fan of the franchise. I think the 1968 original, Planet of the Apes, starring Charleton Heston, is not only the best of the franchise but one of the best science-fiction movies made PERIOD! The 1968 movie still holds up today in many ways. The make-up still looks good. The themes of the movie are still, sadly, relevant. Will mankind be be the author of its own demise? The conflicts between science and religion, a major theme of the movie, still are being waged. Well, the battle between science and religion is really not that big at all. Only the extremists in religion seem to be fighting against science and the bettlefield seems to be mostly through Meme’s on Facebook or religious message boards.
In my DVD collection, which is about 700 DVD’s and growing larger, I only own the original 1968 movie. It is a classic and there are times I feel that the sequels may make people forget what a classic the original truly is. However, I was able to reevaluate my stance on the sequels after having not watched them in quite a while. So for the remainder of this blog post I want to give a short review of the sequels.
Beneath the Planet of the Apes: This movie came out in 1970 and although Charelton Heston returned as Taylor it was in a minor role. He appears in the beginning and then is not seen again until the last 20 minutes of the film. This movie belongs to James Franciscus who plays another astronaut who also “accidently” arrives in the future searching for Taylor. In some ways the movie is a bit of a retread of the first film in that Franciscus experiences some of the same things Taylor did. A large part of the movie takes place under ground where Franciscus comes across a group of telepathic mutant humans that are worshiping an old atomic bomb. The apes, who seem to have much less screen time, are becoming more militaristic and headed for war with the mutant humans. In the end the apes and the mutant humans clash and succeed in blowing up the world. What a bummer! For myself this is one of the weaker sequels. The whole religious bomb worshipping mutants are just plain silly. Also, why do science fiction films iften show humans in the future mutated with psychic or telepathic abilities? Maybe in 1970 that was not a cliche but here in 2013 in has becopme a bit old. With the world blowing up at the end the tragedy itself seems too overblown.
Escape from the Planet of the Apes: Released in 1971 this is my favorite of the sequels. Before you can enjoy the movie it does have a premise that is diffucult to swallow. Some how the Apes, who are pretty primative, repair Taylor’s space ship (which had sunk to the bottom of a toxic lake in the first film) and fly it to the early 70s just before the world explodes. Once you can accept that premise this is an entertaining sequel. The film stars Roddy McDowall as Cornelius and Kim Hunter as Zira and Ricardo Montalbán as a circus trainer. The movie is a real fish out of water story as Cornelius and Zira adjust to a world were human beings are in control. Although society at large loves these talking apes from the future, there are some that do not trust them. When a pregnant Zira reveals that someday apes will take over the world and will play a role in the destruction of the earth there are those who want her unborn baby killed and Cornelius and Zira sterilized. The film ends with Cornelius and Zira dying and their newborn intelligent baby ape being placed in a circus under the care of Ricardo Montalbán. This movie is a roller coaster ride of emotion. From humor to fear and disgust the movie excellently examines the theese of fear and prejudice.
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes: This movie sees the rise of the apes rebellion over humans. The movie came out in 1972 but is set in 1991 at a time when all of the cats and dogs have died from a disaes and apes have become servants…or slaves to humanity. Ceaser, the son of Cornelius and Zira, who was raised by Ricardo Montalbán in a circus, leads the revolt after wittnessing abuse and mistreatment of the apes by humans. He is also trying to stay one step ahead of the law as the authorities suspect that he is the long lost child of Cornelius and Zira. The parallels with slavery and the fight for civil rights and equality for African-American is obvious It does seem to date the film a little bit but doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. The movie ends with the apes in firm control.
Battle for the Planet of the Apes: Honestly, I don’t know why this movie was made, other than for a cash grab. To me the story was complete and had gone full cricle therefore this movie was not neccessary. The movie takes place a few years after the ape uprising but also after an apparent nuclear war. The apes and humans are trying to live in harmony. But when an angry gorrilla rebels against the humans a war breaks out. But in the end harmony is restored so the movie is much ado about nothing. The budget was low and it shows. The ape make up looks plastic and unrealistic. The movie is a mess.
I do have a greater appreciation for the sequels but in many ways I think the original is a great stand alone film and there is something enjoyable about leabing the fate of Taylor and Nova s mystery. This is brough home specifically with the unsatisfying sequel. The two sequesl after that are the best after the original, while the fifth movie is a real dud.
Posted on February 18, 2013, in Movie Recomendation, Old Movie Review and tagged Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Charelton Heston, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, James Franciscus, Kim Hunter, Planet of the Apes Marathon., Ricardo Montalbán, Roddy McDowall. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.