“Planet of the Apes” Franchise Retrospect – Worst to Best of the Franchise

Planet of the Apes Franchise

The Planet of the Apes Franchise has some great moments and is a solid franchise overall. Looking back gave me an appreciation for the original series and I got to see one of the worst films ever in Tim Burton’s remake. In this list I will recount them from worst to best with the reasons why they are in that place. I will also have the links of the original reviews of the said films. So without further ado, let’s go!

Planet of the Apes

9th – Planet of the Apes (2001)   –   2  / 10

I have no idea what Tim Burton was thinking when he decided to take on this project, since I have never seen a movie miss the point of the subject matter this much (this film is worse than the “Transformers” Franchise). The main character is flat and generic, the villain is hammy and evil without any point and the human and apes have no discernible civilization. Things happen because story is over character and the story makes no sense. From Capt. Leo’s chimp arriving on the Ape Earth to Leo traveling through the portal to a future where there is an Ape Lincoln statue in the Lincoln Memorial. This was a confusing mess that was insulting to the audience. Thankfully it never gets this bad again.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/08/planet-of-the-apes-2001-how-to-miss-the-point-of-the-source-material-and-waste-good-talent/

beneath-the-planet-of-the-apes-movie-poster-1020221553

8th – Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)  –  6 / 10

“Beneath the Planet of the Apes,” is the most unfocused out of all the Ape Films. There are tons of protagonists but most don’t really get any time. Also the main protagonist Brent is from the Mark Wahlberg school of generic and is a forgettable protagonist who has nothing really to define him. In this when we get introduced to the Mutants who are worshiping a nuke. They are also flat and the most interesting people who we see get any exploration are Dr. Zaius and General Ursus who believe they are protecting ape kind from destruction. Cornelius and Zira only have a cameo sadly. The film in the end is above average for these reasons. Also, everyone dies except for Cornelius, Zira and Milo who go back in time…I wish we could have seen them repairing Brent’s ship and their escape. It would have made the ending more bittersweet.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/03/beneath-the-planet-of-the-apes-1970-not-enough-time-with-the-apes/

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes

7th – Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) –  7 / 10

“Conquest” has a lot of good ideas that aren’t fully realized. My biggest problem is after Armando dies, we never see Caesar integrate himself into ape society. If he had it would have made sense for them to follow him. Instead he stares at them and they decide to follow him. This one also has a villain (Governor Brett) about as complex as the leader of the Mutants in “Beneath,” so evil for the sake of evil. This was a shame since the President and Dr. Otto from “Escape,” were brilliant as antagonists. Caesar’s reason for going bad make less sense too since MacDonald is there as a good character, yet at the end Caesar is talking about the destruction of mankind as a whole. It is as if Armando was forgotten, which is a shame. Still an entertaining film, though “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” does it better.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/05/conquest-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-1972-a-good-idea-poorly-executed/

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

6th – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) – 8.3 / 10

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” suffers from making it’s lead up (Before the Dawn – the 3 short films) set expectations too high, and throwing away one of the most interesting characters in the 3rd Act (Koba the Bonobo) who was experimented on by humans in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” for an easy out and to give Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) reason to try and kill the apes. Besides the third act this is a great film, it is just the 3rd act captures all the cliches. Koba and Caesar fight on a tower after Caesar’s attempted assassination and Koba is just plain evil when we saw none of that before. Great moments but ruined by how Koba and Dreyfus were handled in the end and the fact that Malcolm was way too over-trusting. It at least is honest that war is inevitable given the events that go down and that apes started the war (one reason Malcolm shouldn’t have been so trusting).

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/11/dawn-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-2014-how-the-trauma-of-the-past-can-devour-the-future/

Battle for the Planet of the Apes

5th – Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) – 8.5 / 10

“Battle” is rated higher than “Dawn,” because “Battle” knows that it’s premise is a bit hilarious. We see this in Governor Kolp who listen to Mendez, one of the mutants for peace but still revels in the fight because he is slightly mad from the radiation. We also have a tender moment of Caesar watching the footage of his parents Zira and Cornelius in the archives of the dead city. This and General Aldo’s guilt over killing Caesar’s son make this better than “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” the movie that took inspiration from it’s premise. We see the consequences of war, but also the hope for peace when Lawgiver is teaching children and apes side by side and how the future is unknown…giving us hope the cycle might be broken, or that there is good even as humanity goes towards destruction (“Beneath the Planet of the Apes,”). We also see MacDonald advocate for human freedom and the ability to choose their own destiny, which Caesar respects after the defeat of Aldo who was going to slaughter all the humans.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/07/battle-for-the-planet-of-the-apes-1973-completing-the-original-planet-of-the-apes-cycle-and-a-story-of-hope/

Before the Dawn

4th – Before the Dawn: 3 Short Films Between “Rise” and “Dawn” –  9 / 10

“Before the Dawn,” is better than “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” the human characters are more complicated and it shows the reality of the world of “Dawn” and the fear they feel towards each other and the apes so brilliantly. I almost wish “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” had been done in this style…than we wouldn’t have had naive Malcolm and Jump the Shark Koba. We see a wife torn from her husband dying alone in quarantine in “Quarantine,” we see the desperate life of the survivors in “All Fall Down,” and how people cling to the memories of the past and in “Story of the Gun,” we see humanity’s descent into savagery and the rise of the apes. Is beneath the original “Planet of the Apes” because it is only shorts and not a full length feature.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/10/before-the-dawn-3-short-films-leading-up-dawn-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-reviews/

Planet of the Apes 1968

3rd – Planet of the Apes (1968) – 9 / 10

The original “Planet of the Apes,” is a classic for a reason. Charlton Heston is great as the nihilist George Taylor who in fact does care, and Cornelius and Zira as the ones building a bridge between humanity and apes through Taylor is some of the best stuff. Dr. Zaius is also the best of the antagonists as he seeks to protect the future by hiding the truth and the past from the apes. This film is one of my favorites and there is a reason it started the franchise, even though it is a very self contained movie that didn’t need sequels. From memorable lines of “Damn you all to hell!” and others it is a cinematic classic worthy of the praise it receives. Ape society reflects the worst and best of ours today, which is what this franchise does at it’s best.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/03/planet-of-the-apes-1968-we-are-the-apes/

escape-from-the-planet-of-the-apes

2nd – Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971) – 9.5 / 10

“Escape from the Planet of the Apes,” is one of the greatest films in the franchise and one of my all time favorite films. It explores the perspective of the outsider from the view of Zira and Cornelius (the best parts of “Beneath” and the original “Planet of the Apes,” and we see how they are used by Dr. Otto who fears they will bring about the future of the “Planet of the Apes” through their child. We see human characters who were as they were (scientists fight for them and help them escape the feds), and we see the dilemma of leadership in the President who realizes their power in regards to his own so respects them until Dr. Otto turns him against them. Dr. Otto is a great human Dr. Zaius type character and Armando is fantastic as the one who protects Zira and Cornelius for a time and helps them save their son Milo when he is being hunted down. It is a beautiful film and the most powerful of the original series.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/04/escape-from-the-planet-of-the-apes-1971-the-hope-of-ape-and-humankind/

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

1st – Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) – 9.75 / 10

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” manages to capture the process of the outsider becoming part of the group (Caesar’s time in captivity) why animal experimentation happens (finding cures for Alzheimer’s etc.) and that groups and people are complicated. It is a beautiful story of the rise of Caesar and captures the Ape Revolution much better than “Conquest,” does. This film is the best of the franchise with the most complex human and ape characters whose motivations make sense. From Will trying to save his father, to Caesar feeling abandoned and choosing his people and establishing himself as leader with the help of the Orangutan Maurice. It is the best of the franchise and my favorite of all these films. It elevates the subject matter and Serkis is by far the best Caesar of the franchise.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/08/rise-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-2011-a-great-retelling-of-the-origins-and-rise-of-caesar/

I would recommend all the Franchise to any person who loves a creative premise and is ready to see some pretty great acting. The Original Series Cycle is solid as a whole and the only really bad film in the franchise is the Tim Burton “Planet of the Apes.” It is a fascinating whole and was an amazing adventure to do. We’ll eventually return to this when the new film that is in the works happens. Till then, hopefully we can learn the lessons from the franchise and find our better selves.

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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. 

Planet of the Apes (1968) – We Are the Apes

Planet of the Apes 1968

The Original “Planet of the Apes,” is a movie that I remember a little about going in…I remember the iconic scene at the end and some of the memorable lines voiced by Charlton Heston…but beyond that I could remember very little of the details because it had been so long since I’d originally watched it.

“Planet of the Apes,” was directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and had make-up design by John Chambers who won awards for the design of Spock in Star Trek and for the groundbreaking design of the Apes in this film and franchise.

The premise of the film is that three astronauts crash on Earth, losing the only woman in their crew. They don’t know what planet they have landed on but come to discover the world is dominated by Apes with an advanced social structure and civilization and full of humans who are mute and like small brained animals. George Taylor (Charlton Heston) is the primary protagonist and from whose eyes we see events unfold.

Here is the assessment of the film:

Pros: The World – The world of the “Planet of the Apes,” is fascinating. We see a world with complex social structures (Orangutans as Priests, Lawyers and Judges, Gorillas as workers and military and Chimpanzees as scientists and intellectuals). There is conflict between the chimps and the other social classes as expressed through the Chimpanzee protagonists of Zira and Cornelius.

The Make-up – There is a reason that this make-up was so groundbreaking. The prosthetics show the diversity of the Gorillas, Chimps and Orangutans and when they speak it looks like they are actually speaking. Emotion is seen in their expressions.

Zira and Cornelius – Zira and Cornelius are great. Zira is the idealist who takes chances and risks and in the process finds the truth of who George is. Cornelius is fantastic as well. He begins as fearful because of how he was punished for entering the Forbidden Zone where a past simian species was located. He comes around though as he comes to know George. Roddy McDowell and Kim Hunter do amazingly as their characters.

Dr. Zaius – Is the primary protagonist of the film who has some idea of what happened to humanity on this world. He uses religion to suppress free thought and punish heretics who go against the holy book. He is authority corrupt and a complex antagonist which makes him interesting. Maurice Evans does great. His final critique of humanity is perfect (The place where you were was once a paradise, not it is a wasteland…giving us our first hints of the truth of this world).

George Taylor – The anti-authority figure does a great job of fighting the power as represented by Zaius. He is able to build a bridge with Zira and attempts to with Nova…his actions drive the plot. He also sees the truth of his astronaut companions such as one who was seeking immortality as a reason for leaving Earth on the voyage.

The Trial of George Taylor – I really liked the trial scene. We have a tribunal of Orangutans who ignore every claim put before them. We also see them silence George when he is putting up a good defense. It is the perfect corrupt trial and we see later that it was all a ploy to get Zira and Cornelius charged with heresy and to find out where George’s tribe is in order to exterminate them.

The Reveal and Ending- The Planet of the Apes is Earth. We destroyed ourselves with Nuclear Weapons and war leading to the rise of our ape brethren. It is brilliant and desolate and a great warning about the future. Fact is another movie didn’t need to be made after this since the ending is so complete.

We Are the Apes – We are the ones who fear truth and discovery like Dr. Zaius. People in our species wish to suppress thoughts that go against their religious ideology and people are still killed for heresy today and science in the classroom is replaced by myths in some extreme religious settings. This message is profound and warning. In our fear of truth and knowledge and want for power we could destroy ourselves…We create structures where abuse can happen and ideology and can. We are the apes the movie presents as the antagonists except for those who are seeking knowledge and truth.

The Music – I loved the music. It captured the primitive world that Earth had become and gave a sense of discovery and urgency. Jerry Goldsmith did a fantastic job.

Cons: Nova – She is an empty character who is just their to love the protagonist. Here is to hoping she gets development in the other movies. She is a blank slate.

The Crew – The astronaut crew isn’t all that interesting. They are there just to die. (Also the black astronaut dies first). They were never fully fleshed out and seem to represent ideals. None of them receive the development George does.

Lucius – Another example of an idiotic child actor. All he does is whine and say that he’s a rebel. He doesn’t do anything but help Zira and Cornelius and more often than not needs to be rescued. Whenever he is helping he is whining.

The Original “Planet of the Apes,” is a classic for a reason. It provides an excellent critique of some of the problems today as well as some of the problems in the past and even shows us what it sees as the way out…giving it’s desolate ending a bit of bittersweetness. I would definitely call it a favorite film.

My Final Score for this film is 9 / 10. Definitely recommend.