So the Planet OF The Apes series has run across that famous trend that normally occurs only in comics, the “retcon”. See, in the original movie, the timeline for when the apes took over was roughly 1200 years before Taylor lands on Earth. But in the last movie, Cornelius and Zira arriving on the Earth altered the events. So now, 18 years later, we have the beginnings of the apes’ rise to power. So let’s see how this all starts with today’s movie, Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes.
The plot: In North America in 1991, groups of apes are being led around by guards and shown how to do tasks such as sweeping, mopping, and setting the table. A helicopter carrying Armando and Caesar, the child of Cornelius and Zira, arrives and after showing the police the papers allowing Caesar to wear normal clothes, they head downstairs from the helipad. When they are alone, Caesar asks if he did good and Armando says he did but he has to try to act more like a primitive chimpanzee, as Caesar has picked up some more evolved habits from Armando. Armando then tells Caesar that they have to be careful because if people discover who he is, he will be killed. Heading out into the city, Caesar is shocked at seeing the apes treated as slaves and questions Armando about it. Armando explained that in 1983, a plague wiped out all of the dogs and cats in the world (like Cornelius said in the previous movie) and so humans decided to domesticate apes as pets. However, when they realized they could be taught to do things, humans had the apes grow bigger so they could be used as slaves. Armando and Caesar go about town passing out fliers for Armando’s circus and while doing so, Caesar becomes infatuated with a female chimpanzee called Lisa. When Caesar witnesses an ape being beaten and drugged, he yells out “Lousy human bastards” and the police stop what they are doing and question Armando. Armando tells them that he is the one that yelled but the crowd gets agitated, saying that Caesar spoke. When the ape that was beaten tries to run, Caesar manages to escape and Armando follows him and they hide in a stairwell. Caesar apologizes but Armando says not to worry and tells him he will go to the authorities and try to get everything straightened out. He tells Caesar to wait for him in the stairwell but if he is not back by nightfall, to make his way to the docks and try to sneak into one of the shipments of apes on the dock. At the authorities, Armando is questioned by Governor Breck, who doesn’t believe Armando’s story and thinks his chimpanzee is the child of Cornelius and Zira, and with incidents of apes attacking their masters on the rise, wants him found and killed so he can’t lead a rebellion. Armando is kept at the station so Caesar makes his way to the dock and sneaks into a cage carrying some orangutans. Caesar is taken to the slave training facility, where he witnesses the apes being conditioned by being brutally beaten and tortured. At one point, Caesar is sent to the fertility area to breed with a female chimpanzee before he ends up on an auction block, where he is purchased by Breck. Breck’s chief aide, MacDonald, attempts to teach Caesar how to be a bartender but when he messes up the drink, Breck has Caesar assigned to the control room but first, he decides to have Caesar name himself by picking a name from a book and Caesar points to Caesar. As they are heading to the control room, other apes react differently to Caesar, which MacDonald notices. Meanwhile, Armando is placed under a machine called the Authenticator, which causes him to admit that he had heard of Cornelius before. When they start to question him further, he struggles with his guard and jumps out a window to his death. At the control room, Breck rants about Armando hiding something and demands that MacDonald find the chimpanzee, unaware that Caesar has heard every word that they said. That night Caesar goes outside and, after seeing a flyer for the circus, cries out at the death of his adopted father before deciding to take revenge. Caesar starts leading the apes to revolt against the humans in minor acts of disobedience, while organizing apes to gather weapons in a secret hideout. Meanwhile, Inspector Kolb realizes that Caesar was brought in with a shipment from an area that doesn’t have chimpanzees. Breck contacts MacDonald and tells him that Kolb is on his way to collect Caesar but MacDonald lies and says that Caesar isn’t there, then takes Caesar out of the control room. In an empty hallway, MacDonald says he wishes that Caesar understood what was being said and Caesar reveals that he can talk. Caesar says that he will try to get freedom for the apes the only way left to them, by revolution and MacDonald tells him to run. When Kolb arrives and learns that Caesar is not in the building, he orders the police to pick up any unaccompanied apes and Caesar is eventually captured. Caesar is taken to a room and strapped to a table, where Breck has him tortured until Caesar speaks, begging them to “have pity”. Breck orders Caesar to be terminated and Kolb says since he is wired for electrocution, to do it that way instead of by injection. Unknown to them, MacDonald had gone to the power room and lowered the power on the shock table. When Caesar notices the dials not moving even though the guard is turning the knob, he fakes being electrocuted before pretending to be dead but after Breck and Kolb leave, he overpowers the guard. Caesar meets back up with his ape army and they head to Ape Management, where they release all of the captive apes and either kill or capture the humans inside. When Breck hears of what is going on, he orders military back up to come in and shoot all of the apes. Meanwhile, Caesar and his army go out into the city with containers of gasoline and pour it all over the central plaza. When a squad of riot police encounter a group of apes and kill some of them, Caesar leads a charge against the police and overpowers them, taking their weapons for themselves. Caesar leads his army to the plaza, where they encounter some more riot police but he has two apes use moltov cocktails to set the gasoline on fire and they use that as a distraction while they attack the police. As the apes continues the rampage through the city, Breck tries to maintain order in the command post but is shocked when he sees the sealed door being cut open with a torch. When the door is opened, Caesar and the apes burst in, with Caesar shooting several of the guards while others are captured, including Breck and MacDonald. Caesar approaches Breck and asks why they were made into slaves and Breck says that it is because humans came from apes and he refused to allow the apes to take control of humans. Caesar has Breck and the other captured humans taken outside and Caesar has the apes brutally beath the guards to death in front of Breck. MacDonald tries to reason with Caesar, begging him to end the violence but Caesar is caught up in the rage and says that his people will wait for the humans to kill themselves in their endless wars and when their cities lie in ruins, the apes will rise up and enslave the humans to serve their own ends. He then has his men beat Breck to death and looks on as the fires burn behind him, while MacDonald and Lisa look away in sadness.
Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes met with mixed results from the critics, currently holding a 44% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Though there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, several critics liked the serious tone that the movie took in regards to the apes’ revolution. The original cut of the movie (which is what I reviewed) had the death of Breck but when it was previewed, the producers decided to rework the ending to a less graphic showing so in the theatrical run, Breck’s life was spared when Lisa says “No”, making her the second ape to be able to speak and Caesar decides to show more humanity than his human masters. The movie was a success at the box office, earning $9.7 million off of a $1.7 million budget.
This was definitely the darkest movie out of the series so far, and made for a really great story. The acting was really good, with Roddy McDowall doing an excellent job, though I will admit it was a little odd having having him playing Caesar as I was used to him as Cornelius. Don Murray (Breck) and Hari Rhodes (MacDonald) were both really good as well in their respective roles. The story was well written and, like I said before, really dark but I think that was to help emphasize the ape revolution. Like it’s predecessors, it felt like there was some social commentary in this movie as well, mainly that of animal experimentation. The special effects were decent, with the prosthetic make-up for the apes being some of the best work while the final battle saw a large amount of the thick, bright red, paint looking blood that was common for horror movies in the 70’s (which to be honest, I was never a fan of as it made things seem too fake). A great entry in the series and well worth watching.
Rating: 4 out of 5