"Battle for the Planet of the Apes" is the final chapter in the sci-fi movie series. In this chapter, a tribute of human atomic bomb mutations are out to make life miserable for the peaceful ape tribe. The story is told primarily in flashback with the opening and closing taking place in the year 2670. (1)
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Hello, Movie Buffs!
Director J. Lee Thompson and writer Paul Dehn return to Battle For The Planet Of The Apes (1973), the 5th and final film of the original Planet of the Apes (POTA) series. Every film following the original first film – by director Franklin J. Schaffner and writers Michael Wilson and Rod Serling – has suffered in some way or another but I do not believe that Battle is the worst in the series. In my opinion Beneath is my least favorite film, Escape and Conquest are my top favorites, while Battle and POTA fall somewhere in the middle. It’s obvious that this film’s low budget made the costumes and set designs look cheap, and the story a bit thin but that does not mean that it should be easily dismissed. Despite a few flaws Battle has great character development and there are plenty of dramatic moments to go around.
Battle takes place 10 years after Conquest when Caser (Roddy Mc Dowall), the son of Zira and Cornelius, led the apes to a revolt against the humans, who have now gone underground. Now with the discovery of each other’s existence, Caesar is trying to find a way for humans and apes to co-exist peacefully. But a power struggle amongst the apes and a distant uprising with the humans threatens to return Caesar’s world back to the old ways. The story’s message could have been explored better, the action is simple, and the effects would have been better if the budget was bigger. However, the music score (Leonard Rosenman) does the film justice, a feat unheard of since Jerry Goldsmith's impressive music score from the first film.
The characters more than make up for the flaws, which are the result of a low budget film. Roddy McDowall reprises his role as Caesar and this time his character is more compassionate than in Conquest. He’s had time to soften out and has learned throughout the years that humans are not as evil as he originally thought. Sure there are bad humans but there are also bad apes, and you cannot let the bad ones determine if a race is really evil or not. Austin Stoker (Airport 1975) is great as Bruce MacDonald, who acts as a human companion and voice-of-reason for Caesar; he’s an advocate for mercy for the human race. Another stand out is Virgil, the clever orangutan, played by Paul Williams (Smokey and the Bandit). Virgil speaks in scientific poetry and is Caesar’s most trusted advisor. He also services as a voice of reason Caesar. Some other good performances are Lew Ayres (All Quiet on the Western Front) as Mandemus, the keeper of Caesar's armory. John Huston (Chinatown) as the Lawgiver, who acts the film’s narrator. Natalie Trundy returns as Caesar’s chimpanzee wife, Lisa. And Severn Darden who returns as Kolp from Conquest but this time he is the governor of an underground, radiated civilization of humans.
Overall, Battle for the Planet of The Apes (1973) is a fitting conclusion and while it is not the best in a series it is most certainly not the worst but rather it lies somewhere in the middle. Most of the film's flaws are a result of a low budget which seems to be a trend for this series, as each new installment gets a smaller and smaller budget. However, the solid performances by the characters and their dramatic moments more than makeup for the film’s flaws (the message, action, special effects). Also while the story is a bit basic it did have some good ideas and made an effort to try and reach its potential. I recommend anyone who is interested in the series to watch all 5 films – warts and all – in order to better appreciate the series as a whole.
"All knowledge is for good. Only the use to which you put it can be good or evil."
Worth Seeing: 8.4 of 10 stars
Worth Buying: 8.4 of 10 stars
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