Since the original “Planet of the Apes” back in 1968, the sequels have tried to replicate it’s significance and meaning. Well, all except “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”, which had a bigger focus on plot and narrative than actual meaning. “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is incredibly significant, far more so than the original ever was, and that is saying something. There are so many different messages within the film that I couldn’t sit here and tell you about all of them, and the likelihood is that I’ve forgotten some of them or just not even picked up on them. It’s not a film where the meaning is well hidden behind avant garde film making, that’s not to say that “Dawn” isn’t a smart and delightfully artistic film, because it is. It’s just the case that you would have to be a real troglodyte not to take anything at all away from the film. I have a lot to say, because “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is, and I believe always will be; a culturally, historically and aesthetically significant film. I do adamantly implore you to watch “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” before this as it is also very good and it would be a shame for me to spoil it in this review, which I will.
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” might be marketed as a prequel, and it certainly feels like one, but it definitely isn’t something you should watch before the original series or the Tim Burton remake. It takes the established concepts of “The Planet of the Apes” franchise and rewrites the beginnings of the rise of the apes and the decline of humanity. “Rise” certainly begs for a sequel and I eagerly await to see it, but “Rise” doesn’t cheaply give you a cliffhanger ending just to entice you for it. It does what all blockbusters, or any film in fact, should do. It makes you want more by proving to you that what it has to give is grand ideas and even grander execution. “Rise” is amazing, dare I say it, it’s even better than the original and certainly better than any of it’s sequels.
There are few times I find myself happier than when I expect a film to be bad, and it turns out to be of actual quality. It’s a rare occurrence, usually I am not too far away from the general consensus of the audience and even if I am, the critics tend to represent my opinion more reliably. “Planet of the Apes”, which was directed by none other than Tim Burton (Frankenweenie, Edward Scissorhands), isn’t just not terrible, it is a genuinely good film that just suffers from a few evident flaws that cause it to lag just behind the heights of the original.
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.
Number four everyone, we’ve hit number four in a series that is slightly odd in its lack of consistency in quality. It’s gone good, to average, to good and now right back down to average again. I haven’t had the pleasure of ripping apart any of “The Planet of the Apes” films (yet) because they just haven’t gotten as bad as I expected them to. That still doesn’t make this one good, it’s just… passable. It’s one of those movies that is hard to review because I’m struggling to remember exactly what happened, it pulls all of it’s punches and ends up unremarkable and especially unmemorable.
“Beneath the Planet of the Apes” was the first sequel to “Planet of the Apes” and my opinion of it was that of utter indifference. My biggest problem with it was the knowledge that the series had continued and that, as is usually the case, things could only get worse from here. I’m so genuinely happy to report that that’s not the case, “Escape from the Planet of the Apes” is no masterpiece, but it isn’t bad and is certainly above average with a suitable amount of new ideas resulting from it’s obvious attempt to genuinely shake up the franchise in an effort to make it fresh, and in some respects, they succeeded.
Often films try to mimic what is a part of all great films, and that is the idea of the messages within, be they moral or immoral. “Planet of the Apes” is an example of a film that strives for greatness but falls just short despite the occasional scrape with said greatness that never amounts to anything beyond that. I will say that just because a film isn’t great that does not mean that it is not worth watching, or even that it’s not of genuine quality. “Planet of the Apes” is a good science fiction film that will just leave you wishing it had done a little bit more than it did, because there are the makings of a real classic here.