A little late I know. It’s not even April anymore. Who was excited to see a fifth apes movie? Who has ever been excited for the fifth installment of anything? There gets to a point where a franchise has to make an important decision, A. Stop or B. Start over with something new and different. 20th Century Fox decided to go with C. Just do the same old shit again and see if it makes money.
Battle for the Planet of the Apes is no more its own movie than the worst parts of all its predecessors. It’s wordy, confusing, and flat filmmaking. If it weren’t for the ape costumes (of which most have seen better days) there wouldn’t be anything interesting about this uninspired vision of the future. This is further ruined by the film’s inconsistencies in regards to the rest of the series. Battle is one last squeeze out of the dried up utters of a once promising cash cow.
The film begins with an introduction by an Orangutan known as “The Lawgiver” played by John “Where’s my paycheck?” Huston. Audiences learned in previous films that the Lawgiver is the founding father of ape society. This story is not about him, rather the dull escapades of Caesar (Roddy McDowall). The Lawgiver speaks of how the apes came to be in a mind-numbing (almost five-minute long) monologue with flashbacks until the REAL film starts. When it does we pick up with Caesar twelve years after the previous installment Conquest, which leads to my first area of confusion “You’re telling me that in TWELVE YEARS all apes can talk?” In the last film, it was only Caesar. “What the f#@k did he do, invent magic?”
Moving on, Caesar tries to lead a community of apes and human slaves but faces complications with the heartless gorilla Aldo (Claude Atkins). Defeated in his attempts to unify the apes and people, Caesar is reminded by a human slave named MacDonald (Austin Stoker) that the Forbidden City (the remains of a major U.S. city) still stand and there Caesar can find answers. In the Forbidden City Caesar can learn about his parents and possibly the future.
The group sets out on a mission that makes no sense, oh yeah and there’s a brainy orangutan named Virgil (wonderfully played by Paul Williams) who tags along. What do they encounter in the Forbidden City? If you guessed those lame mutants from Beneath the Planet of the Apes, you guessed right. They all fight because you know whatever, Caesar learns about his compassionate pacifist parents and they get the hell out of there.
Next, for no reason, the mutants decide they don’t like the apes and start a war. I guess this movie needed to cash in on that title. Now Caesar must do battle against the mutants, Aldo, and the potential revolt within the community. “Why does everyone have to fight?” The mutants could have easily stayed in the Forbidden City and they would be fine. Aldo could go anywhere else with his followers and start a community, it’s a big planet!
Where the past few films were penned by Paul Dehn, this film was written by Joyce and John Corrington (The Omega Man.) An interesting decision considering the couple had never seen any of the other films. My first reaction would be “It’s obviously these guy’s fault the movie is bad.” Yet, Paul Dehn rewrote most of the script and changed the ending to the Lawgiver finishing the story and a shot of a crying Caesar statue. Reportedly, Joyce Corrington called the ending “Stupid. It turned our stomachs when we saw it.” I’m surprised, it sounds like the film’s failure was Dehn’s misdoing. This would make sense considering Dehn had been running out of ideas and conflicts since Escape.
I’m afraid this is where I’ll end my Apes journey. Yes, I have seen the Mark Wahlberg version, yes it’s bad, but I need a break from all this monkey business. If you want to find my review of Rise of the Planet of the Apes it should be in the catacombs of this site. I’ll see you all again when I see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes this summer. Hopefully, it won’t suffer the same fate as past Apes films. I want to see plenty of Apes-a-popping!