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.
“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.
The first “Planet of the Apes” at least attempted to be a little bit more than stock corny science fiction. It’s sequel, “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” completely descends into the realm of corny sci-fi, such in the vein of the original “Star Trek” series but without any of the grand themes of the quest for knowledge. This time we are provided with a new hero who looks deceptively like George Taylor (Charlton Heston) from the first movie, to the extent that when I first saw him I was genuinely confused as to what was happening and whether what I was seeing was a flashback. The gusto the original had just isn’t in this half-hearted sequel and it’s unfortunate to watch the originality (Yes I’m aware it wasn’t an original screenplay) of the first film get suddenly marred with the curse of the generic. It doesn’t bode all that well for the rest of the series and I am certainly less excited about viewing all of them, oh well.
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.