Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) Review

Here it is, the fifth and the last of the original “Planet of the Apes” franchise. “Battle for the Planet of the Apes” is an utterly useless exercise and finally drags the series down to the levels of the truly terrible, instead of the simply unremarkable. I can’t tell you how much I really wanted the series to go out with a bang. Literally, I thought this could potentially be a film that perhaps lacks in good characters and cinematic competence, but makes up for it in just pure large scale visceral carnage between the two warring factions of the apes and the humans. Regrettably, I report to you that “Battle” is neither. There is nothing worth talking about here, but I can be quite artistic with wasting my time.

At least 12 years have passed between “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” and “Battle”. Sometime after the end of the last movie a nuke wiped out the city and Caesar (Roddy McDowall) now rules over a group of apes and humans with his wife Lisa (Natalie Trundy) and Cornelius (Bobby Porter), his son. There is tension in the community between the gorillas and the other inhabitants. Caesar is interested in peace but Aldo (Claude Atkins) is interested in war, he doesn’t want humans to be equals but instead wants the gorillas to rule over the other races with him as their leader. For some inexplicable reason, Caesar decides to go to the dead city in order to seek a tape left behind for his parents. The whole endeavour is utterly selfish and is a complete waste of time. Literally nothing comes of it except for Caesar’s party getting attacked by the mutant humans, and by “mutant” I mean slightly more wrinkly than other humans and with funny hats, and starting a small scale war between the apes and the mutant humans. All of the above takes ninety minutes to accomplish, you can imagine how much of it is made up of pointless chase sequences with less suspense than asking “If I jump in fire, will I burn?”. Of course you’ll burn, and did you just get back from watching “Battle of the Planet of the Apes” too? Mind if I join you?

As this series has gone on, each movie has felt more and more like it’s plot is just an excuse for it to exist. I’m supposed to believe that in the time between the first movie, in which time none of the returning characters notably aged, all of the previously silent apes suddenly became articulate? It was implied by the first films that apes developed speech over thousands of years, even that is short in terms of evolution but at least there was always the idea that maybe something else influenced the evolution? We were left in the dark and it was fine, we have been shown too much and can now see the inconsistencies in the “Apes” universe and it’s served to ruin it’s feeling of authenticity. I had to spend a night in A & E because I had to staple my suspension of disbelief to my forehead, that’s just unacceptable.

“Battle” has a feeling of pure movement. It’s like in a video game, where you have to get something mundane done just switch to the map and hop between places, complete your objectives and then leave again. There is very little meaningful interaction and when the movie is trying to attempt some it always falls flat. It is purely focused on groups moving between areas and accomplishing mundane tasks in order to do so, occasionally sandwiching this in between some dreadfully boring dialogue. Caesar is the leader, and Caesar is still boring! His father, Cornelius (to avoid confusion, Caesar named his son after his father) was my favourite character in the whole series because he was well written and hilarious! Roddy McDowall played Cornelius and he now plays Caesar, so it’s painstakingly obvious that it was the incompetence of those that had a hand in the script that succeeded in making Caesar so lifeless and dull. Advice to any budding screenwriters, check that you have people around you that want to have a conversation with you. It seems obvious that those who wrote this movie haven’t actually ever had a conversation that wasn’t with Agent Smith or the teacher from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”

Obligatorily by this point, the final twenty minutes are compounded with a huge battle between the apes and the mutant humans. Buses filled with armed men roll through smoke and apes behind barricades attack with rifles at the ready. I wrote in my notebook when this started something along the lines of “War between two armies relatively exciting” so that’s nice. The next bullet point was taken three minutes afterwards and reads “I take it back”. Not only can “Battle” not make anything interesting, but it also doesn’t have any concept of what is too much. Having said that, making an all out war boring in three minutes probably hasn’t been done since I last saw my cat glaring at my fish tank expectantly. Maybe they were trying to portray war as not all it’s cracked up to be by portraying it as an arduous affair. Maybe I’m just grasping for some praise to give for this film, but I’ve been wrong before.

All I can say is I’m glad to be done with the old apes for now, I don’t even care that the Tim Burton “Planet of the Apes” is supposed to be a dreadful remake. I just crave something that is at least somewhat new. Do you see what has happened to me? I am genuinely saying that I’m glad to be watching a remake of a dead series just so I can watch something “new”?

Someone managed to catch some footage of me watching “Battle” if you’re interested, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKMI4hP8qTQ

4/10

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