I love the original Planet of the Apes film. There’s even kind of a soft spot in my heart for that dumb Tim Burton directed Mark Wahlberg one. What can I say, liked the ape + human romance. Don’t get me wrong, it was a bad movie, but it is one I can sit through and not feel my time was wasted.
Thanks to TCM, I was finally able to see all the Apes films way back when the Tim Burton film was coming out. Though I specifically remember them playing the films out of order, so at times I didn’t know what the hell was going on. For a franchise that has gone on this long, with these many sequels and prequels, it’s shocking to have a many good ones than bad. That’s not usually the case.
I just recently finished my run of all the Police Academy films. A film a night! You really start to see the decline as you move down the list. They made 7 films, 6 and 7 being almost unwatchable. But for a while there, at least up to 4 it was still enjoyable. And surprisingly Steve Guttenberg held on that long. His big sendoff being him hitching a ride on a hot air balloon. And the world never saw him again until he returned with the masterpiece Lavalantula, where he teams up once again with Police Academy alum Michael Winslow, who played Jones. You know, the guy who couldn’t act if his life depended on it, but could make funny sound effects with his mouth.
The direct sequel Beneath the Planet of the Apes is terrible to say the least. Kind of textbook unnecessary sequel. Charlton Heston refused to come back unless they killed off his character. But besides that, the whole plot was awful. A rescue team comes to find the crew that crashed to earth, only to be captured by more talking apes. There’s also a civilization of mutated humans living underground that worship an atomic bomb. I also believe they’re telepathic as well, just to add an extra dose of stupid. But by the end the whole planet explodes with only two apes making it off the planet. And that kick starts the prequels.
Thankfully the updated prequel films are much better, mostly taking their cues from Escape (Rise), Conquest (Dawn) and Battle for the Planet of the Apes (War). The new films aren’t direct remakes or reboots, not exactly, more of a reimagining. It does setup Planet of the Apes pretty well. If it’s the Tim Burton one or not is a different matter.
Many are kind of indifferent with the first film Rise, but I found it extremely enjoyable, good enough that you’d like to see more. And more we got.
Dawn I thought was terrific. The motion capture was improved, the story was more compelling… all around it was a very excellent film. And the film that might have kick started the whole Andy Serkis Oscar talk. Though that might have started with Lord of the Rings.
As for War for the Planet of the Apes? I thought it was a masterpiece that excellently bookends a pretty tremendous trilogy. If they make a new Planet of the Apes after this, I welcome it. That is if the same people are involved. Just don’t bring back Mark Wahlberg. Hey monkey, say hello to your mother for me.
Since this is the third film in the trilogy, I might as well give you a quick rundown on the films so far.
In Rise we are introduced to baby Caesar, an ape that was left orphaned when his mom was killed. She was a part of an experiment to help cure alzheimer’s, the end result being a highly intelligent ape like Caesar, even being born with humanlike eyes. The lead scientist, played by James Franco takes Caesar home and raises him as his own. But as Caesar gets older, he becomes less and less comfortable with his sheltered surroundings, wanting more freedom.
Having to give Caesar up, Franco gives him to a zoo where he can be with other apes, but the place is hell. Caesar uses the same smartypants gas on his fellow primates and they make their escape into the forests of San Francisco.
In Dawn, humanity has all but been wiped out by a virus spread by the apes, calling it simian flu. Those immune to the virus live a harsh life on the run from each other and the hostile apes.
A group of survivors need to get past Caesar’s group so they can turn on the dam generator, giving them some much needed power. Among Caesar’s group is a scarred up ape called Koba. He hates humans, once being a victim of their cruelty. He doesn’t trust these humans, putting Caesar’s rule into question when agrees to let the humans into their camp.
Koba attacks the human settlement, starting a war with the humans. A small pocket of human survivors leave and beg Caesar to leave as well. The military was called in and will wipe anything ape shaped out of existence. But this is Caesar’s home, he isn’t going to run. The apes have a rule. Ape doesn’t kill ape. But Caesar had to break that rule to stop Koba’s madness.
Now in War for the Planet of the Apes, the military has arrived, hunting down Caesar and his people. Apes loyal to Koba have joined up with the military, a kind of enemy of my enemy type of deal. The humans call them donkeys, using them like pack mules. They help the humans find other apes to either capture or kill. These hardened military soldiers are being led by Woody Harrelson, only known as The Colonel. Think Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now, but less fat.
After surviving a terrible attack by the humans, Caesar is ready to move his people. He sent his son off to find a new home for them. He returns with good news, they found the perfect spot. But it will take some planning, getting so many out of the woods undetected will be hard.
Waiting however results in The Colonel showing up to their home, killing Caesar’s wife and son.
They were betrayed by one of their own, Winter, a white ape. He gave one of the captured donkey apes the location of where to find everyone, in exchange to be spared.
Now Caesar is out for revenge.
The rest of the apes leave for the new land while Caesar rides off to find the human military base. Accompanying him are his friends who I really don’t know the names of. Sorry. There’s a gorilla and an orangutan. They have names but I have no idea what they are. He has a few more with him but I have no idea who they are either.
Anyway, the gorilla heard from his scouts that there’s humans held up at some lodge in the middle of nowhere. When they arrive they find a guy holding firewood. And like a moron, he reaches for his gun, only to get blasted away by Caesar. He’s military, but what is he doing out here alone? Inside the cabin they find a little mute girl who seems… not all there. She has a bloody nose and a dolly, not to mention a blank look permanently stuck on her face.
This little girl is Nova. If you’ve seen Planet of the Apes, you know she grows up to be Charlton Heston’s love interest.
There are a few references like that. Caesar’s other son is Cornelius, who we see all grown up in Planet. There’s also references to Bedtime for Bonzo and Apocalypse Now, Ape-pocalypse Now… get it!
If you have seen Planet of the Apes, you know the human have devolved into noncommutative primitives, War explains how this came to be. The virus that every human has is mutating. It no longer kills you but diminishes their higher functions that make them human. Mute and dumb basically.
Which means it didn’t matter if Charlton Heston’s character died in Beneath the Planet of the Apes, he’d most likely get infected with the virus, dying like most of the humans that weren’t immune. And even if he was, he’d just end up like all the rest, mute and dumb.
While tracking the humans, Caesar and company run into a strange talkative ape called Bad Ape, voiced by Steve Zahn.
Don’t let the name fool you, Bad Ape is very good, acting kind of the comic relief for this pretty gloomy film. He knows where the military base is. It’s a very dangerous place where humans used to keep the infected. Now it’s a place humans keep captured apes.
But not just any apes, apes belonging to Caesar’s tribe. The military captured them as they tried to escape to their new land. Now Caesar has to do more than just get revenge, he has to save his people.
Before Caesar gets a chance to do anything, he is captured. The apes are being used as slave labor. They’re building a wall. But why? The Colonel has gone off the reservation, executing infected humans. The last of humanity seems to just be these two military factions. To stop Woody Harrelson, they’re sending everyone to converge on the base.
The Colonel ordered his men to execute their own family members if they become infected. Those who refuse are also executed. This explains Nova and her father being out in the middle of nowhere.
I’ve heard complaints how dumb it was that Nova didn’t care her father died, but breaks down into tears over the dying gorilla that gave her a flower. My explanation for that is… she probably didn’t remember the man was her dad. She didn’t even know if she was an ape or not. The virus fries your brain. She broke down over the dying ape because she actually remembers him, he was nice to her, and therefore emotions are expressed.
Now that Caesar has been captured, it’s up to the orangutan, Nova and Bad Ape to rescue everyone. If I had one complaint it’s the film does kind of drag a bit around this time. I never found myself bored but I could see others getting up around this time to take pee breaks.
Thankfully there’s an underground tunnel under the base. Most likely secretly used when humans where being held there. Bad Ape stumbles into the entrance, finding a way to dig up top to the encampment the adult apes are being held. Caesar on the other hand is being kept separate, mostly getting tortured by a donkey ape.
As the apes hatch a plan on escape, getting the kids on the other side of them out as well, Nova just walks into base undetected, helping Caesar, giving him water and food. She even gives him her dolly.
Okay, so we are getting into ending spoilers now, so stop reading if you don’t want things spoiled for you. Just go see the film, it’s amazing.
In the morning the apes are put back to work, The Colonel discovering the doll in Caesar’s cage, taking it with him. As night falls, the apes manage to get out with the help of some monkeys throwing poo. But as the apes are trying to escape, the other human military faction shows up and all-out war starts with the apes caught right in the middle.
Instead of leaving with his people, Caesar once again chooses to get his revenge. But when he reaches The Colonel’s room, he discovers he has been infected, turning him into the thing he dreads most. The doll had Nova’s blood on it. Instead of executing The Colonel like he wants, he lets him suffer, forcing him to kill himself instead.
With apes getting caught in the crossfire, Caesar heads for a fuel tanker with a belt of grenades. Time to blow these assholes up. But getting close enough won’t be easy. As he reaches the tanker, he is struck down but a human he spared the life of earlier in the film.
Seeing his fellow apes getting slaughtered, the donkey ape that’s been torturing Caesar through the whole film, finally comes to his senses, saving Caesar with a grenade launcher.
Caesar manages to toss a grenade into the tanker, blowing up the base.
As the other human military faction celebrates, an avalanche washes over them, killing what is last of humanity’s forces. The apes however escape by climbing the trees.
Now the apes are free to go to their new land. But Caesar has been mortally wounded. He dies a hero, knowing his people are finally safe.
If you want to know what happens next, just watch Planet of the Apes. It can even be the Tim Burton one, I won’t judge you.
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