“Conquest of the Planet of the Apes,” has a great premise. It is the rise of Caesar the revolutionary who creates the City of the Apes we saw in the first two films. We get to see the basis of why he and the apes rebelled, which gives a great chance to explore the reasons behind revolution. Sadly, the execution is not nearly as good as it could have been.
Here is the assessment of the film:
Pros: Caesar – Caesar or Milo son of Cornelius and Zira (and played by Roddy McDowall who played Cornelius, does a great job! The problem is we don’t see a gradual change. We see him witness the enslavement of the apes after the disease Milo, Cornelius or Zira brought back kills them all. He is great as a character though and his interaction with Ricardo Montalban’s Armando is fantastic. Armando is his hope for humanity so when the Police State that has arisen kills him he snaps. Sadly he is the only ape who is any sort of character…the rest are just masses without any unique characterization or individuals among them. He eventually goes power mad though and shows no mercy. He becomes the antagonist by the end (which makes me think he forgot about his friends at the Circus). It is tragic how he forgets about the good humans and becomes as they are by the end. He lays down the rules of the Ape World we see at the beginning (treat humanity with compassion as servants).
Armando – Ricardo Montalban is once again great. I see why he was killed (to motivate Caesar to action), but he was one of the only interesting human characters besides MacDonald.
MacDonald – Played by Hari Rhodes, he is Governer Breck’s (the antagonists) assistant and sympathizes with the apes because of the history of race in America and all it took for African Americans to gain rights and freedom. He is an interesting character who I wish had got more screen time with Caesar. His confrontation at the end is powerful too as he tries to reason with Caesar to seek compromise.
Okay: The Music – Is nothing special and doesn’t elevate the production.
The Revolution – It isn’t bad…but I really wouldn’t call it exciting either. Seeing the apes get weapons is cool…but when they join Caesar all he has to do is look at them…this was poorly done. If people join you they have to connect with you, which usually involves language (“Rise of the Planet of Apes,” did this a lot better).
The Ending – “Tonight we have seen the birth of the Planet of the Apes.” Caesar’s final line after he is reminded to show kindness…ironically he creates the world they were fighting against though with Apes as the new masters and God as the justification. The strongest scene is the “No,” one of the apes says while holding Governor Breck’s dead body which leads to Caesar laying down the premise of Planet of the apes and the new Master and Servant relationship.
Cons: Governor Breck – Is the hammiest of antagonists. He is bad for the sake of being bad. He justified slavery and after was surprised when the slaves rebelled. He was needlessly cruel to everyone around him and was a bigger one note baddie than any villain prior.
The Apes – They aren’t characters just representations of the working class and the powerless. I would have liked to see someone speak for their experiences besides Caesar who was an outsider to their experiences. One does speak at the end after Caesar’s call for humanity’s annihilation with the words, “No.” Which is great. More of this would have been nice.
The length – It is one of the shorter of the films but if feels longer. Especially on scenes where there is Governor Breck or just ape to ape interaction. This is a shame since the Ape characters were always the best thing about this series up to this point.
This film was better than “Beneath the Planet of the Apes,” but not as good as “Escape From…” and “Planet of the Apes,” the Original. It had a lot of good ideas but doesn’t really get them until the end and after it is too late. The ideas should have been captured and expressed earlier. Governor Breck as an antagonist doesn’t help…MacDonald would have been a much better antagonist and keeping Armando alive longer could have helped the story…as well as making the police state more subtle.
I’d check it out if you are curious to see the first Caesar that appeared on screen. Just know you’ll probably watching simply an okay film.
Final score is 7 / 10.