Thursday, June 17, 2010

Battle for the Planet of the Apes

Battle for the Planet of the Apes is almost embarrassingly minimalist in sets and casting. The former can be rationalized by the setting being a post-nuclear war Ape City and a completely destroyed forbidden City of radiation humans who will eventually become those bomb worshipers of the 40th century. The casting is a little harder to defend. Perhaps they broke the bank hiring the legendary John Huston to play the lawgiver. Outside of movie star Roddy McDowall, the cast was made up of television stars like Claude Akins and diminutive singer Paul Williams as apes. But come on--it is Sheriff Lobo and the guy who wrote “Rainy Days and Mondays.” Surely you cannot really say that is a big step down from television stars James Franciscus and eric Braeden of previous films?

Okay, so you can. Regardless, Battle is a worthy conclusion to the original penology in spite of its movie of the week feel. Considering the next step in the franchise was a television series more in tune with this film than the one that started it all, it could be considered a logical step. I will address that tomorrow. For now, let us wrap up the original movie series.

It is ten years after Caesar lead a simian revolt. It appears someone panicked in the interim and a devastating nuclear war ensued. Caesar is nonplussed. He is happily married, has a kid named Cornelius, and is presiding peacefully over both apes and humans in what will become Ape City. Enter Aldo, a thick headed gorilla who does not believe humans and apes can coexist. It his intention to round them up and kill them all so apes will rule what is left of the world.

He has to be the Aldo Cornelius spoke of from the Sacred Scrolls in Escape , but he does not fit Cornelius’ story. Aldo was not a slave and he was not the first to say “no” to a human. I am not certain if this is supposed to mean Cornelius and Vera traveling back through time may have altered the future or if it is just retconning. I am just going to chalk it up to the latter rather than go into another mind numbing discussion about the physics of time travel. I am a Calvinist, folks. If it is meant to be, it will be. ’Nuff said.

Caesar develops pangs of not knowing his parents, so his human assistant says he can go into the Forbidden City and find recordings of their testimony from Escape. Caesar travels there and catches the attention of radiation scarred humans living in hiding. They are not as advanced as their counterparts in the future. In fact, they are awfully bland. I blame it on the low budget. They begin plotting a confrontation with the apes.Meanwhile, Caesar watches his parents’ testimony and learns of earth’s eventual fate. He determines to change it by encouraging peaceful coexistence. It should be noted this is the first time in all five films either ape or human seriously suggests peaceful coexistence as a way of life. Savor the optimism. It only lasts about twenty minutes.

While Caesar is away, aldo pumps up the other apes with his plan to get rid of the humans. Cornelius overhears him and pays the price. He is mortally wounded when AAldo chops of the tree limb the child was hanging on. Caesar is heartbroken, but has to join in the battle with the radiation scarred humans. Said battle looks like a high school staging of a Mad Max movie.

Aldo wants to kill all the humans while the killing it good, but it is revealed he is the one who caused Cornelius’ death. He has broken the most important law: ape shall not kill ape. Caesar takes the opportunity to turn all apes against Aldo’s plan, but the humans are not exactly keen on Caesar’s leadership, either. They are still second class citizens and do not like it. Caesar is not very hopeful for he future even though the radiation scarred humans have bee defeated and the other humans have no violent intentions. And well he should. Back in the Forbidden City, the remaining radiation scarred humans are about to send off a doomsday bomb when their new leader suggests they do not waste it. It should be revered instead as the Giver of Life. In the final scene, the statue of Caesar tears up six hundred years in the future. Even though apes and humans live together in peace at the time, it is clear the future is inevitable.

This all makes you wonder what other catastrophic event occurred between Battle and POTA to erase so much historical knowledge. We definitely see that even benevolent apes like Caesar do not care much for humans. Aldo is a supremacist like just about everyone in the distant future is to become. What happens to divide the two so much that in 19 centuries humans are primitives, apes are kept in the Dark Ages about the past by the keepers of the Sacred Scrolls? There was never another movie planned to address the issue, so it is left up to the imagination. Considering my general aversion to prequels, I suppose I should be happy it was left that way. I will betthere is some fan fiction out there, though.

Rating: * (out of 5)

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