Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973): Completing the Original Planet of the Apes Cycle and a Story of Hope

Battle for the Planet of the Apes

      “Battle for the Planet of the Apes,” completes the original Planet of the Apes cycle and is the 5th film of the Planet of the Apes Franchise Retrospect. It brings the story full circle into how things got to be the way they were in the original “Planet of the Apes.” It succeeds at this well while at the same time being an enjoyable film. It carries the themes we’ve seen from the other films forward, which I will go into in the assessment. The film was directed by J. Lee Thompson, who also directed “Battle for the Planet of the Apes.” 

      The premise of “Battle for the Planet of the Apes,” is the Caesar is working to create a city where apes and humans can live in harmony…but General Aldo, leader of the Gorilla faction is causing conflict which later includes humans as an enemy faction when Caesar, Virgil (an Orangutan adviser) and MacDonald (brother of the MacDonald from the last film) go to the dead city to find the archives where the tapes of Cornelius and Zira are located. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the film: 

Pros: Caesar – This is Robby McDowell best acting I’ve seen. You see the conflict he feels as a leader and why the people follow him, as well as the reason behind his mistrust of the situation and attempts at idealism and trying to change the future that he learns about from the tapes of his parents. After Aldo injures his son Cornelius they have a really sweet moment with his son is injured and dying… 

Virgil – He is the calm and soft spoken intellectual. He knows about radiation and is the philosopher (living up to his name). He is friends with MacDonald and and is the only counter to Aldo later on. 

MacDonald – Is also friend of Caesar and one of the few calm heads in this movie. He is the one who advises returning the Dead City, which is also a good idea…though in a way it creates the future by the action since it gives Aldo and the Governor the excuses they need. 

Mendez – One of the mutants and one of the calm heads in the city. He showed what I wanted to see with the Gorillas…but what we never get in this series. All Gorillas are war mad…at least the mutants have Mendez to counter the madness of the Governor. 

The Mutants and Dead City – This movie captures the Post Apocalypse better than the other films that take place in the future of this world. From the dead city with the radiation, to the mutants who are weak and mad and the broken down vehicles used for military purposes. The exploration of the city and conflict among the mutants was one of my favorite parts.

The Final Battle – The final battle is great. Apes with tech. and mutant humans in mad max vehicles facing off against each other. It captures the cruelty and violence of it all. 

The Confrontation – Virgil confronts Aldo with the knowledge that he murdered Cornelius turning the Gorillas (yay they aren’t mindless violent creatures in this series!) and the rest of the apes against him. It ends on top of a tree with Caesar confronting him with the truth of his actions before he tries to kill Caesar and plummets to his death in the same way Cornelius was killed. 

The Hope – The is the only film to end with hope. The Lawgiver, a Moses type Orangutan is teaching children of apes and humans the story of Caesar and the dream of peace…he also recounted the movies up to this point at the beginning. We see Caesar’s statue cry…but this is also the only time where the final hasn’t ended in mass annihilation or the killing of protagonists or the coming war…hope, what these movies lacked, this one had. 

Okay: Governor Kolp – He is evil and he knows it. He isn’t over the top either in how he plays it too. Severn Darden does quite well. Just wish we had got more of his motivation and more character behind how he was ruling beyond (attack the outsiders!). 

The lead up to war – Aldo should have had more depth. He is the first ape antagonist who has no depth and terrible action. He reminds me of Governor Breck from the last film. Governor Kolp is a little better but he never listens to cooler heads…he at least as the excuse of madness though.  

General Aldo – We see him feel guilt at the end, making him okay. But like Kolp he isn’t a pro. Otto was the best protagonist besides Dr. Zaius and General Ursus. Dr. Zaius being the most complex and greatest of these antagonists of the original series. 

The music – Isn’t super memorable. 

 Cons: Lagged – If some scenes had been shorter (the confrontation, the battle, exploration of the Dead City) it would have been stronger. Some scenes feel like they go on a little too long. But that is the only con. 

    I definitely recommend this film. It is strong on it’s own and completes the Original Planet of the Apes Series Cycle. It is worth it for Caesar and Virgil alone, but MacDonald and the mutants are also fantastic…and we even see complexity among the Gorillas a little bit. I personally would recommend the series as a whole, even though “Planet of the Apes,” the original film didn’t need sequels. The sequels add some fascinating characters and tackle some interesting ideas and even some great drama and action.

 I’m giving this film an 8.5 / 10. The ending and exploration of civilizations elevate beyond being just a good film. Is definitely a favorite. 

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972): A Good Idea Poorly Executed

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes

“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.