As the Apes franchise ground onward to it’s fifth and final instalment during what’s known as the “classic” section of the franchise, it was becoming apparent that the budgets allotted for the movies were becoming lighter than an empty banana skin. While that’s understandable when weighing the financial circumstances (ape prosthetics don’t exactly grow on trees, y’know…) it still didn’t help much considering we’re talking about a series of films dealing in earth’s future where apes have overthrown man. As the stories have become bigger the scale has dropped, hence why this climactic Battle For The Planet Of The Apes turns out to be more of a grumpy skirmish rather than the history altering final battle we all were promised from the start…
After the fiery revolution that ended the previous movie that was capped off by the “happier” of two available endings (ape leader Caesar spares the surviving nasty humans instead of having his gorilla troops beat them into tapioca with their rifle butts), a tenuous period of ape superiority has settled across the land. Humans are now the underclass and live in relative harmony with their simian masters under strict rules (no man can say no to ape is one such unfair law). But the under the command of sizable gorilla asshole, General Aldo (it’s ALWAYS the bloody gorillas…), the safety of the various glassy eyed hippies and do-gooders who are still hanging around seems to be in dire threat. As the marauding monkey makes random, ill-planned threats of the usual fear-mongering kind, ruling simian Caesar struggles to maintain the delicate balance of control and decides to head into the ruined, irradiated cities of man to find records of his time travelling parents thanks to a suggestion from his human advisor MacDonald, younger brother of a character from the previous movie. Before we have a chance to question why a movie that concerns itself so much with civil rights seems to think that the only two black guys that have appeared in the last couple of movies HAVE to be related, the expedition raises the ire of a group of angry humans who have been mutated (i.e. a bit pasty) by the radiation where led by one of the dudes who captured Caesar in the previous movie. While showing off that red tinted snow goggles and unflattering black turtlenecks are hugely popular with evil humans during a dystopian future, the humans unleash their arsenal of a couple of jeeps and some rifles upon the ape city but sinister goings on are happening within Ceasar’s camp too, as Aldo starts to make his bid for leadership by targeting a member of Caesar’s family. With enemies amassing left and right, can our monkey messiah possibly keep the peace, or will everything turn to crap before you can say easy-peasy chimpanzeeny…?
Up to this point it wouldn’t be overly harsh to state that the Apes franchise had been coasting along on the goodwill of it’s peerless original and that it’s sequels – while missing the quality factor by a country mile – still had enjoyable (if zany) sci-fi tales to tell. However, it was becoming apparent from 1971’s Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes that the wheels were rapidly starting to come off the series for multiple reasons: not least of all because the budget simply isn’t there to convince that this is the final, decisive battle to see who gets to run the earth into the ground for the next thousand years or so. Instead the very direction of the planet’s history is almost comically visualized by an invading force of marauding humans looking like they number about 50 and all are utter strangers to the notion of doing a push up. Sure, these doughy, would be conquerors have mortar shells and a jeep but by staging it in the middle of a nondescript field the whole thing has the energy of a half hearted civil war reenactment where the yankee’s are all wearing a monkey masks. It also doesn’t help that most of the script wasn’t double checked for being a bit shit as the film, despite it’s basic bitch run time, strains for memorable material to cram into this “final” adventure.
The actors do what they can but even series regular Roddy McDowell can’t jump-start the life back into such moribund proceedings as the film is so forgettable it very may well have you getting checked for the onset of dementia. Even when something of note does happen, it’s fumbled noticably by the filmmakers and winds up being unwittingly but morbidly cartoonish. The gorillas – war mongering pricks that they are – seem like they couldn’t actually coup their way out of a wet paper bag, let alone get one over on the smartest ape that ever lived and I’m not entirely sure why the filmmakers felt the need to have Aldo try to assassinate Caesar’s son buy having him fall out of a tree. Isn’t where apes perform best? I mean, isn’t that what they are actually known for? As awkward a concept as it is, it’s also hideously carried out as it takes Aldo aaaaaaages to cut Cornelius’ branch to send him tumbling to the ground (the fact that he can leap to another branch just seems to slip the little moron’s mind) and it ends up being vaguely hilarious in how protracted the cruelty is. You’re a fucking gorilla, Aldo, just bash his skull in like one of those manky bastards that showed up at the end of Congo!
As your brain continues to be starved of legitimate entertainment by a plot that’s forgotten to contain any story, it starts picking up on the weirdest things in order to remain interested: for example, minutes before his tragic/clumsy “accident” my brain was sent spinning by the the odd revelation that Caesar’s son sleeps in actual long johns despite being covered in hair. It was a curious, seemingly innocuous detail that had me obsessing for at least 20 minutes after it happened and I had to Chapter skip back a bit to catch up on what I had missed during my “ape long-johns” related fugue state and yet it was by far the most interesting thing that happened during the whole film.
Everything about the movie is all hopelessly inadequate, from the by-the-numbers plot to ramped back scale and it’s a sad (but steady) fall from grace from the majesty of the original Planet Of The Apes that wasn’t successfully regained until 2011 with the release of the awesomely energetic Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes.
Until then, everything else was just plain old ape shit.