The third film in the series was the second most impactful movie in the series behind the original. Of course, they had to do something to explain how a third movie came about since the ending of the second movie pretty much killed any possibility of further movies. So the writers decided to use the age old sci-fi goto in this sort of situation, time travel. Yes, after two movies focusing on a possible future, they decided that the third movie would be set in the past which could pave the way for the future. So let’s delve right into today’s movie, Escape From The Planet Of The Apes.
The plot: In 1973, a helicopter discovers a spaceship floating in the ocean and radios it in to the army, who send out a team to bring the ship to shore. As a general arrives, the ship is opened and three astronauts exit the ship but when they remove their helmets, they are revealed to be three chimpanzees from the future; Cornelius, Zira, and Dr. Milo.The three chimpanzees are taken to the Los Angeles Zoo, where they are placed under quarantine. When they are alone, Zira asks Cornelius what is happening and Milo says that he believes that they have somehow traveled back in time. He also says that they should continue hiding the fact that they can speak or else the humans might find out that their planet will be destroyed in the future. Dr. Stephanie Branton and Dr. Lewis Dixon are brought in to observe the chimpanzees and are performing intelligence tests on them but while they are testing Zira, she gets fed up and tells them so, shocking the two scientists, who quickly leave. Cornelius and Milo confront Zira, who says she is tired of lying, and Milo says there is nothing they can do about it now but as he is walking around their cage, he gets too close to the bars and the gorilla in the cage next to them reaches through and strangles him. After Milo’s body is taken away, Lewis goes in to speak with Cornelius and Zira and, after learning that Zira is a psychiatrist like himself, tries to treat them as equals and Cornelius and Zira say that they like him. At the White House, the President holds a meeting with his military advisers and reveals that the spaceship that had landed in the ocean was the one that belonged to Taylor but the people inside were actually three chimpanzees. He forms a commission to determine how the chimpanzees acquired the ship and what may have happened to Taylor and says that members of the press will be there, since there is no way to keep this under wraps for long. Before the inquiry, Lewis tries to prepare Cornelius and Zira for what they may expect and apologizes that they are forced to be shackled together. During the inquiry, Lewis introduces Stephanie and the two chimpanzees begin asking questions from the panel explaining that they are from the future, where apes can talk and are the dominant species while humans are dumb. During the panel, Zira starts to say she dissected humans but stops herself and changes it to examines, but her words were noticed by Dr. Otto Hasslein, the President’s Scientific Adviser. When the panel asks about Taylor, Cornelius and Zira claim no knowledge of him and they say they mean no harm and ask if they can have their restraints removed. After the panel, Lewis and Stephanie congratulate them on a job well done but Zira and Cornelius confess that humans were hunted and dissected in their time and that they did know Taylor but he couldn’t still be alive because they saw the planet explode from the windows of the spaceship and Lewis and Stephanie agree to keep the information to themselves. After the inquiry, Cornelius and Zira become media darlings and are going to various events but when he attends a boxing match, Cornelius finds the event “beastly”. While Zira is at the museum, she faints and reveals that she is pregnant and taken back to their hotel room by Hasslein. Once there, he gives her some champagne that she asks for and secretly begins recording her as he starts asking her questions, finding out about the destruction of the Earth. Hasslein takes his recording to the President and tries to convince him that the two chimpanzees should be killed as they could one day destroy the Earth but the President states that this is a moral argument that he cannot answer, citing the argument of killing baby Hitler as a comparison. The President says that he will abide by the committee’s decision in what to do with them so Hasslein has a secret meeting of the panel, where they order Cornelius and Zira to be further interrogated. Cornelius and Zira tell Hasslein and the interrogators that a plague had wiped out dogs and cats so humans had started taking on apes as pets but after a while, the apes were able to start doing tasks such as cooking and cleaning so the humans started treating them as slaves until the apes finally revolted. Cornelius also reveals that it was a man-made weapon that destroyed the Earth, not the apes but Hasslein says he is merely interested in learning how the apes came to dominance. Hasslein has Cornelius taken away while he orders Lewis to give Zira truth serum and, under the effects of the drugs, she tells them about how humans were hunted and killed in their time while she and other scientists would dissect them for study. Using the recordings of Zira’s confession, Hasslein is able to convince the commission to have Zira’s baby killed and render Cornelius and Zira unable to reproduce. Back at the facility, Cornelius says that they are being treated like savages but Zira reminds him that Taylor called them savages for how he was treated. When an orderly brings them food, and comments about Zira’s “little monkey”, Cornelius strikes the orderly and escapes with Zira, not realizing that he had accidentally killed the orderly. Meanwhile, Lewis calls Stephanie and asks her to help break the news to Cornelius and Zira, then confronts Hasslein over his desire to see all three apes dead. When Hasslein and Lewis arrive at the facility, they are told of the dead orderly and Hasslein says that they must be killed. Stephanie is driving towards the facility and is stopped by some soldiers searching for Cornelius and Zira and is told of what happened but as she continues on, she sees Cornelius, who had overheard their conversation and said it was an accident. Stephanie goes with Cornelius to get Zira, who is going into labor, and they hide them at a circus run by Armando, who is a friend of Lewis and Stephanie. At the circus, Zira gives birth and names the baby Milo, after their dead friend. Back at the facility, Hasslein asks Lewis how soon would Zira give birth and realizing how little time there was, orders every zoo and circus to be searched. Armando apologizes for forcing them to leave but Cornelius and Zira thank him and Zira asks to see Heloise, a chimpanzee that had recently given birth, one last time. Later, Lewis and Stephanie take Cornelius and Zira to the outskirts of the city and Lewis directs them toward an abandoned freighter that they can hide until the heat dies down. When Cornelius asks for a gun, Lewis reluctantly gives him one and the two chimpanzees kiss their friends goodbye. As they are making their way through an oil field, Zira deliberately leaves her suitcase behind. The next day, the suitcases is found and Hasslein shows up and after ordering people to search, heads towards the abandoned dock, where he sees Cornelius on the ship. Hasslein searches the ship and eventually confronts Zira and demands that she hand over the baby but Zira runs, calling out for Cornelius. When a police helicopter spots Cornelius on the ship and lands, Hasslein is forced to hide, as he plans on killing all three of the chimpanzees in defiance of the President’s orders that they be taken alive. Hasslein confronts Zira again and shoots her as she tries to run, then repeatedly shoots the baby before he is shot and killed by Cornelius. As more police and soldiers arrive, Cornelius is shot by a sniper and falls to the deck and Zira chooses to toss the dead baby overboard and die by Cornelius’ side. Meanwhile, Armando and his circus prepare to move on and Armando speaks with a baby chimpanzee, which is revealed to be Milo, as Zira had switched babies with Heloise, and as Armando walks away, Milo calls out “Mama” over and over.
Escape From The Planet Of The Apes met with mostly praise from the critics, holding a 78% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is that it is, “One of the better Planet of the Apes sequels, Escape is more character-driven than the previous films, and more touching as a result.” The plot focused on many social issues that were starting to become prevalent in society at the time, such as animal testing and government intrusion. The movie was a box office success, earning over $12.3 million off of a $2 million budget.
Despite one obvious flaw, this is one of my favorite movies in the original series. Roddy McDowall (Cornelius) and Kim Hunter (Zira) did a great job reprising their roles and seemed to enjoy playing the characters as the experienced human life. Bradford Dillman (Lewis) and Natalie Trundy (Stephanie) were also good but I really liked Eric Braeden, whose portrayal of Hasslein was very similar to Dr. Zaius in the sense that they felt they had to do questionable things to ensure their own species dominance and survival. The story was really good and did find a way to point out some social issues that were occuring, much like the original movie did. I also liked the fact that Zira knew that Hasslein would never stop looking for them so she deliberately led her pursuers to them and that she sacrificed herself to ensure that her child would live, after it is revealed that she had switched babies. However, there was one problem I always had with the plot. In the future, the ape society had advanced to a pre-industrial revolution technology wise so how were they able to retrieve Taylor’s spaceship and how did they fix it enough where they could fly it off the planet. That has always bothered me about this movie because it is a giant, glaring plot hole in the whole series. The special effects were decent and since they were on a limited budget, they only had to focus on the makeup for 3 people instead of dozens like the previous movies. Giant plot hole aside, this is a great movie and well worth watching.
Rating: 4 out of 5