Battle for the Planet of the Apes

Rating:

“The greatest danger of all is that danger never ends”

Main Cast: Roddy McDowall, Claude Akins

Director: J. Lee Thompson

The curious thing to note about BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, the fifth and final sequel in this incredibly popular franchise is that, in the beginning, apes and humans live side by side.  Humans are just as intelligent and work as teachers for the apes  There is division among the factions, definitely (law states no human may ever say the word “no” to an ape, as this word was spoken to them too often by their human masters–apes, however, are allowed to say no to humans), but most of that division is caused by the gorillas who serve as soldiers.  The bulk of the story takes place a decade after the end of CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, when Caesar, the son of Cornelius and Zira, incited the ape uprising, but, instead of pushing for domination, urged the races to find peace in living together.

Caesar is a good leader, but not entirely at ease with his status and still seeks the council of his human friend MacDonald–this MacDonald is the brother of the MacDonald Caesar knew in the previous movie.  To help him gain more confidence, MacDonald offers to take Caesar to the ruins of the city where he (MacDonald) knows the archives are kept, among which they will find video recordings of Cornelius and Zira.

The problem is the city, what’s left of it, is still inhabited by Governor Kolp, right-hand man to Mayor Burk from the previous movie.  The place is an irradiated mess and Kolp and his cronies are mutated and desperate to make sure the apes pay for their mutiny against their human masters, so when MacDonald and Caesar find their way into the archive section, Kolp uses that as reason to attack.

The plot itself is more complicated than that, obviously.  There’s dissension among the apes as the gorillas want nothing to do with humans as part of their society, tolerating them only because Caesar is the leader and he says so.

The humans are hiding a bomb, which turns out to be the Alpha Omega bomb first seen in BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES, and in BATTLE is when they decide not to use it, but to revere the bomb instead and make it their god.

BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES feels like the most racially-driven movie of the bunch with division lines being drawn not only between humans and apes but between the different apes as well.  Granted, this caste system was well-established in the original PLANET OF THE APES, but considering this movie technically takes places thousands of years earlier, this is where we see it begin.

Roddy McDowall returns as Caesar, making his fourth appearance in the five movies, and once again, he basically carries the entire thing.  They could have hired anyone to hide under that chimp make-up for CONQUEST or BATTLE, but McDowall just brought so much to the role—both as Cornelius AND Caesar—I was literally riveted to each scene he was in.  If the movie had been an hour longer I wouldn’t have minded at all as long as McDowall was in every scene.

The ape make-up has not looked this good since the first movie.  The mouths didn’t give way and reveal the actors’ real teeth painted in black as I saw several times throughout the previous two movies.

I’ve read other reviews of BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES wherein the reviewers felt bored and cheated by this one and I can’t for the life of me figure out why.  For my money PLANET OF THE APES is the movie, obviously, but BENEATH, and then ESCAPE were mere segues while CONQUEST and BATTLE contained the real heart of what this story is about. 

The themes of racial prejudice run high throughout the series, but never in all five movies has it been expressed with as much heart and commitment than in these final two movies, with BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES not only dealing most successfully with it, but also in establishing a sense of hope and really bringing this awesome story to a close in the most satisfying way possible.

I recommend the series to anyone, but I definitely suggest paying particular attention to the last two movies.

Evolution of a Franchise

Planet of the Apes

Beneath the Planet of the Apes

Escape from the Planet of the Apes

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes

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