The year is 1991. Apes have evolved to serve man. Nothing bad could come of this, right? Wrong! We learn this fact quickly in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, the only planned sequel in the series thus far. Yet somehow the inconsistencies and ridiculousness of the series are taken to even greater heights. Conquest may be dumb sci-fi fun but lacks little justification for its existence. I admire that Conquest takes the bold decision to bridge together the original films, but it fails miserably.
Conquest picks up twenty years after Escape following the adult son of Cornelius and Zira, Caesar (also played by Roddy McDowall), though his name was Milo in the last film. Caesar, under the care of Armando (Ricardo Montalban), a charismatic and kind circus ringmaster, travels to “Ape Central” an area in a major urban city where apes are kept on leashes.
The two set out to drop off flyers for their show. You assume this is a front for something (it isn’t) and Armando teaches Caesar about how the apes became man’s best friend. Apparently, in 1983 all cats and dogs died, which is highlighted by a convenient statue of a cat and a dog in Ape Central. Afterward, humans befriended apes for companionship. Then, after only TEN YEARS the apes learned to stand upright, gained increased intelligence, and began to help humans run errands. Are you fucking kidding me? Something that takes thousands and thousands of years took place in less than a decade? I thought this was supposed to be SCIENCE-fiction not MAGIC!
If the logic of this isn’t bad enough for you, Conquest has its fair share of series continuity errors. For instance, it was clearly stated in past ape films that the first ape to speak and lead the apes was named “ALDO” not “CAESAR”, you’re always waiting to see whether Caesar changes his name or maybe Aldo shows up but he doesn’t. So ignore everything you’ve seen up to this point.
Armando and Caesar run into trouble after Armando tries to cover for Caesar speaking in public. This leads to a tricky confrontation with the police and instead of getting the hell out of Ape Central, Armando decides to speak with the police at the station. Why bother trying to convince them you meant no harm when they don’t care? Also, why was the ringmaster of a circus handing out flyers anyway? There’s literally no one else who works for him that can do that? As Armando prepares to meet with the police he further complicates the plot by having Caesar hide amongst the ape populace. What if he gets kidnapped? How’s he gonna get him back?
Caesar is put on auction and purchased by Governor Breck (Don Murray), a man you can tell is evil by his black turtleneck. Breck becomes suspicious of Caesar’s intelligence and tries to get in touch with Armando to get to the bottom of this shit. How does he do this? He interrogates Armando with a truth serum ray. I shit you not. It’s a device that emits a blue light and makes you tell the truth unless you kinda shift your head away from it. Armando fights the truth ray and escapes (which makes no sense) and jumps out of a window on like, the fiftieth story of a building.
Enraged by the cruelty of man, Caesar escapes and starts an ape army through… telepathy. There’s no other explanation for how he communicates with the other apes. This leads to a rebellion by the ape populous and a dumb speech by Caesar. Hurray? Time for another sequel.
The logic in Conquest is so poor that I wonder how it got as far as it did in production. I really wanted to like it and there is a lot to like in the rebellion sequences, but I can’t give a pass to its lazy script. Let’s hope those wacky apes can win me back when I sit down to watch Battle of the Planet of the Apes. The battle rages on!