PLANET OF THE APES RETROSPECTIVE: BEST TO WORST

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What a great series to review this year. Brilliant characters, excellent commentary on real life events and news headlines. Amazing costumes and later special effects. Crazy plots and twists. Excellent set design and imagination. The Planet of the Apes series has endured decades and has had many highs and many lows. In 2014 with the release of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes I decided to look back at the series from the original 1968 classic Planet of the Apes all the way to 2014’s Dawn. It has been a great experience reviewing this film and below I’ll list the best to worst in the series.

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1. Planet of the Apes (1968)

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2. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

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3. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

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4. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)

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5. Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

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6. Planet of the Apes (2001)

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7. Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)

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8. Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)

Although I love Dawn of the Planet of the Apes dearly I still find the original 1968 film to be the best of the series. Rise of the Planet of the Apes was an excellent reboot for the franchise and introduced us to Andy Serkis mo-capped Caesar. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes was an excellent thriller and showed the beginning of the Planet of the Apes. Beneath the Planet of the Apes was a fun sequel to the original with a completely insane ending. However with a (mostly) absent Charlton Heston the film ultimately struggled. Tim Burton’s remake was disappointing but had some fun elements and excellent costume design. Escape and Battle were pretty forgettable entries in the franchise. All up a great series and I had a lot of fun watching them all.

REVIEW: CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (1972)

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MacDonald: Caesar… Caesar! This is not how it was meant to be.
Caesar: In your view or mine?
MacDonald: Violence prolongs hate, hate prolongs violence. By what right are you spilling blood?
Caesar: By the slave’s right to punish his persecutor.
MacDonald: I, a decedent of slaves am asking you to show humanity.
Caesar: But, I was not born human.
MacDonald: I know. The child of the evolved apes.
Caesar: Whose children shall rule the earth.
MacDonald: For better or for worse?
Caesar: Do you think it could be worse?
MacDonald: Do you think this riot will win freedom for all your people? By tomorrow…
Caesar: By tomorrow it will be too late. Why a tiny, mindless insect like the emperor moth can communicate with another over a distance of 80 miles…
MacDonald: An emperor ape might do slightly better?
Caesar: Slightly? What you have seen here today, apes on the 5 continents will be imitating tomorrow.
MacDonald: With knives against guns? With kerosene cans against flamethrowers?
Caesar: Where there is fire, there is smoke. And in that smoke, from this day forward, my people will crouch and conspire and plot and plan for the inevitable day of Man’s downfall – the day when he finally and self-destructively turns his weapons against his own kind. The day of the writing in the sky, when your cities lie buried under radioactive rubble! When the sea is a dead sea, and the land is a wasteland out of which I will lead my people from their captivity! And we will build our own cities in which there will be no place for humans except to serve our ends! And we shall found our own armies, our own religion, our own dynasty! And that day is upon you… now!

Director: J. Lee Thompson

Cast: Roddy McDowall, Don Murray, Ricardo Montalban

Synopsis: In a futuristic world that has embraced ape slavery, Caesar, the son of the late simians Cornelius and Zira, surfaces after almost twenty years of hiding out from the authorities, and prepares for a slave revolt against humanity.

Review:

The film begins in a grim looking 1991, with now grown ape, Caesar, discussing the plight of the apes with his owner/mentor Armando (Ricardo Montalban). We discover that since the dogs and cats have been wiped out by a deadly virus, apes have become groomed to replace them as home pets. However as time went on the apes became used as slaves rather than pets. They are used to clean the house, prepare dinner, etc. Eventually they became used for more menial jobs such as janitors, waiters and cleaners. The parallels to the plight of minorities in America are quite heavy handed in these scenes.

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Caesar however who was born from Cornelius and Zira in the previous film has advanced skills and knowledge and has already evolved to a more humanoid ape similar to his parents who were from the future. Caesar eventually has to mix with the common apes and instead of obeying the humans he starts an uprising and gets the apes to fight back and escape their grim current predicament.

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Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is a much more thrilling adventure, darker in tone that the previous film, Escape from the Planet of the Apes. Caesar’s uprising is both shockingly violent and dark considering the film was produced for families. However this helps the film rise above previous instalments and stand on its own as both a prequel and sequel to the original Planet of the Apes. Roddy McDowall excels as Caesar and his impassioned speech in the closing act is perhaps the best scene in the entire franchise.

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With sharp direction from J. Lee Thompson and a thrilling score from Tom Scott, Conquest delivers everything you love about this franchise, social commentary, brilliant action set pieces and many twists and turns.

Rating: 3.5 Stars