The fourth film in the Planet of the Apes series is easily the worst. It is terrible in all respects, not the least of which is how badly it was filmed. It the darkest film I have ever seen, not in terms of tone, but the lighting period. It literally look like Conquest of the Planet of the Apes was filmed by candlelight. The movie is also disturbingly violent. It takes a lot of gruesome violence to bother me, so I am not only impressed the film made me flinch, but that a number of changes had to be made before the wide release because test audiences found the original cut even more upsetting.
I think movies like this are handicapped right out the gate because they are telling a story we have gotten hints of in the past and therefore have already imagined how it turnes out. Thereal deal is never better than the power of our imagination. This is why I have come to the conclusion prequels are a bad idea virtually all the time. Who cares about the road trip when you have already had a better time at the destination? The question has a double importance when you consider the road trip was as bad as Conquest.
The story plays out in a variation of what Cornelius told the presidential commission in Escape from the planet of the Apes. According to Cornelius, the progression of apes from pets to slaves to masters took several centuries. At the time, the movie producers assumed the Apes series was going to be a trilogy. When Fox ordered a fourth film, the story was retconned into taking less than twenty years for apes to come out of the jungle and into power. But hey, the continuity problems are the least of it.
A plague does occur sometime in the late ‘70’s which kills off all the cats and dogs. Humans begin taking apes as pets to replace them. Eventually, the complex tricks the apes are trained to do become menial, but beneficial tasks. I cannot blame people for taking that logical step. Who would not want a monkey butler? That would be totally cool. By 1991, the United States has become a fascist regime based on a privileged leisure class living off the enslaved apes.
This makes no sense on the surface. No explanation is given why the country became fascist other than the slavery of the apes. Something needed to be thrown in there as a catalyst; a war, harsh economic times, or some sort of natural disaster which prompted citizens to give up their freedoms for security. But we got nothing like that. Americans have apparently embraced fascism because they liked the idea of oppressing apes, so they gave up their own freedoms in order to do so. Or something like that. There is not even so much as a throwaway line to explain any of it, so your guess is as god as mine.
Armando is still looking after Milo even after he has grown into a young adult. Milo has to fake being a regular, dumb ape, but through an unfortunate series of events, he gets captured and enslaved by the government. When he sees the brutal training, torture, and sometimes execution his ’brothers’ suffer through, he changes his name to Caesar and becomes a revolutionary. He and the other apes eventually revolt. They go on an incredibly violent rioting spree against the humans.
Originally, the film ended with the apes beating the head bureaucrat of ape control to death in the street. Audiences reacted negatively, so it was changed to have the sliver of optimism presented when Caesar proclaims that humans and apes ought to live in peace although he does announce this is the beginning of the planet of the apes. One is left to wonder the emotions you are supposed to feel about it. As in the previous film, you are not too thrilled either side won. You do not like what humans have become, but you know the apes are not going to fare any better in the long run.
If I did not enjoy the fifth and final film in the series, I would have said the series should have stayed a trilogy. Considering how much I disliked Escape, it probably should have only been two movies, but what can you do? I will cover the final film tomorrow and explain why I like it in spite of its flaws. It is enough of a good movie to make me forgive Conquest.
Nevertheless, I cannot write up a review on Conquest and not talk about the impossibility of Caesar beginning the ape rebellion. Caesar is the son of the only talking apes in the 20th century because his two talking ape parents traveled to 1973. Thus, Caesar established the line of talking apes which eventually begat his parents. A casual loop has been created with no discrenable origin point. What was the catalyst for apes gaining the ability talk? You cannot even attribute it to an aftereffect of the plague which killed off the cats and dogs since it has been established twaddle to Caesar’s presence in the past.
In layman’s terms, Caesar is distant ancestor of himself. It is a little more distant, but similar to the episode of Futurama in which Fry traveled back in time wanting to meet his grandfather. While waiting for him at a bar, he meets a woman. After a few drinks, hey decide to sleep with each other. After having unprotected, Fry learns the woman is his grandmother. He got her pregnant and therefore he is his own grandfather. It just cannot happen since there is no distinct origin point for Fry.
If you think about it too much, the whole series will be ruined for you.
Rating: ** (out of 5)