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BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, 1973
Movie Review

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BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES MOVIEBATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, 1973
Movie Reviews

Directed by: J. Lee Thompson

Starring: Roddy McDowall, Claude Akins, Natalie Trudy, John Huston and Paul Williams


Review by Joseph Paul John McCarthy


SYNOPSIS:

The final chapter in one of the greatest, most classic and enduring film sagas of all time. The world has been destroyed by a nuclear war. But who will come out on top, the apes, the humans or the mutants?

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REVIEW:

So finally here we are; the final entry in the Planet of the Apes saga. ‘Battle for the Planet of the Apes’ takes quite a massive dive from the quality of the previous films, this is mainly due to a massive cut in budget, but slowly and steadily this had been happening since the first sequel, so it’s no real excuse.

‘Battle’ is the kind of sequel to a franchise that you watch and then say, “I wished they’d finished on the last one.” The film falls short of the standard that the other ‘Apes’ films had set up in many areas, from the costumes to the acting, from the storyline to the musical score and finally the ending.

In all the previous ‘Apes’ films I was always amazed with the level of realism that the ape masks gave to the film. The ape faces looked real, realistic looking skin, realistic looking hair. Clearly the costume department in ‘Battle for the Planet of the Apes’ was hit hard by the budget cuts. These films apes look a lot more like plastic life-size action figures. Apart from Caesar (Roddy McDowall) but I believe this is because his face had been modelled many times before for the previous films.

Pretty much the entire supporting cast were known for their roles in various television shows and as supporting actors in previous films. Such as with the actors John Huston who played the Lawgiver and the veteran actor Lew Ayers who has a small cameo in the film. Actors like Claude Akins, the veteran TV western actor and Severn Darden, a comedian were given star billing in an attempt to convince audiences that the ‘Battle for the Planet of the Apes’ was a star studded film.

The story has some good points to make, but again, like ‘Escape from the Planet of the Apes’, the themes are all piled up on top of each other to the point where things get confusing. Also by this point you are already thinking, “Yes I know, I get it, we should be kinder to animals and our fellow man...” At least it does bring a new point into the film, corruption that power brings. But this is sort of short lived. The purpose of the story is to show exactly how the planet of the apes came about. However this is odd given that this was explained by Cornelius and Zira in ‘Escape from the Planet of the Apes’ and really ‘Conquest of the Planet of the Apes’ was more the genesis of the planet of the apes. So after watching these films in order by the time you reach ‘Battle for the Planet of the Apes’ you just feel like the story is redundant.

A lot of the dialogue seems to be just as redundant, with Caesar’s call to fight back at the mutants with a “Now fight like Apes”. I’m sure was an attempt to draw on the same kind of dry humour from the first film where lines like “You know the old saying man see man do.” But now it just seems that these kinds of jokes fall flat.

The musical score is pretty standard for the ‘Apes’ films by this point, which is good it helps us identify this movie with the previous films. But it is nothing particularly interesting or memorable.

Finally the final scene in the film; once again I don’t want to ruin this for anyone who hasn’t seen this film but I have to mention it as it is a very vague ending. If you don’t want the ending ruined cut down to the next paragraph. So at the ending of the film the classic plot device is used where by the narrator (John Huston) is revealed to be a lawgiver teaching a class of both human and ape children. Obviously the apes and the humans are now equal. One child asks the lawgiver what will the future hold and he replies, “Only the dead know the future”. The camera zooms in on a statue of Caesar and it sheds a single tear. Now what the hell does that mean? When I first watched this film years ago I figured it was a tear of happiness, that Caesar had changed the future and now man and apes would be equals. Of course this annoyed me anyway as I then wondered what would happen when Taylor arrives in the distant future. But upon researching the film I find out that Paul Dehn, one of the writers of the film, has said that it is supposed to show that Caesar is sad because mankind is still going to fall and everything will be the same as before. This completely changes the tone of the ending for me, in the end it seems that all is redeemed but now it’s all just depressing and was for nothing. Perhaps the statue weeps because of how bad the film is.

So that is the end of the Planet of the Apes saga. There are some reasons to watch this film; if you have gone to the effort of watching the others you might as well round it off with the final film. The saga as a whole is, as I have stated elsewhere, truly one of the most classic franchises around definitely in my personal top four. However ‘Battle for the Planet of the Apes’ just doesn’t quite make it full circle when really that is what it should have done. It’s made it to about a 205 degrees but it just can’t close up that 155 degrees of the plot circle.

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BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES


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