release date: 15 June 1973 (USA)
run time: 93 mins
considered: Action, Sci-Fi
director: J. Lee Thompson
starring: Roddy McDowall, Claude Akins, Natalie Trundy, Severn Darden, Lew Ayres, Paul Williams, Austin Stoker, Noah Keen, Richard Eastham, France Nuyen, Paul Stevens, Heather Lowe, Bobby Porter, Michael Stearns, Cal Wilson
movie summary: The end of the Planet of the Apes movie franchise is upon us. In Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Milo/Caesar (Roddy McDowall) has led his fellow apes to a revolution against the humans and now they are in control of everything. It’s been almost a decade since the events of Conquest and the war the followed. The majority of humans were killed in the ensuing nuclear war and Caesar has made it a point that apes and humans live together in peace.
Caesar acts as the leader of the apes, he is married to Lisa (Natalie Trundy) and has a son named Cornelius (Bobby Porter). There are several humans who live among the apes, not as pets, but educators. MacDonald (Austin Stoker) is the personal assistant to the ape leader and is also very helpful in teaching apes how to read and write. He spends his free time walking and talking with Caesar about the past and about the future. They both realize that Caesar’s army General Aldo (Claude Akins) is someone they can’t trust, he doesn’t like humans, and doesn’t like Caesar’s loyalty to them. He begins to spread doubt to his man in the ranks, that if the moment ever arises the apes will overthrow Caesar and that would allow Aldo to become the new leader of the apes.
Sadden by his parents death at a young age, Caesar wonders what they were really like. MacDonald explains that in the Forbidden City, destroyed by a nuclear bomb, there are archives, videos that show Cornelius and Zira back in 1973. Caesar takes great interest in this story before organizing a search party he leads to find the abandoned building that has the videos. Caesar, MacDonald, and another ape make they way into the city that is was completely destroyed by the bomb. There’s nothing left but some trees, sand dunes, and abandoned buildings. The group make their way unnoticed into the archives building where Caesar finally gets a glimpse of his parents on a really old film strip. Just as Caesar was learning about his past, the trio come under attack by a group of armed humans. The humans patrol the underground looking for survivors or kill anything that isn’t human. This group of renegades are under the command of Governor Kolp (Severn Darden). He is a survivor of the war and not mentally stable from the effects of nuclear fallout. When he learns about the human assisting the apes, he orders a group of his men to follow them back and find out where they came from. As the spies follow Caesar back to Ape City, Governor Kolp orders an all out strike on Ape City to protect the rest of the human race.
When Caesar returns he is confronted by General Aldo. Aldo has decided that he is leader of the apes now and orders Caesar to be arrested and locked up with the rest of the humans. Cornelius learns of the plot to over throw his father but dies before his dad finds out. When the apes are about to break out into a war amongst themselves, the human army reaches the Ape City limits and an epic battle is about to ensue that could end the world as we know it.
my thoughts: It is a sad time to have reached the end of reviews for the original Planet of the Apes franchise here on Throwback Thursdays, but it couldn’t have come at a better time. Battle for the Planet of the Apes was the end of the series as we knew it and for good reason, it was horrible. Battle is an extremely short movie that literally flew by for me which left a sour taste in my mouth. The third movie was awesome, it gave us the birth of Milo/Caesar and set us for the epic battle in Conquest that would turn the tides of human history. That battle in the fourth installment was nowhere near as amazing as the one in Rise of the Planet of the Apes from 2011, but it gave the apes the kind of victory they needed for their race. One would think that a movie titled “Battle for the Planet of the Apes” would feature a war start to finish and tie up all movie storylines, when in fact it does none of that.
Roddy MacDowell reprises his role are Caesar, the soft ape leader, who still believes in being friends with humans. Despite everything humans had put apes through, Caesar saw past it and realized he needed humans to help shape ape society to way he envisioned it. Not every ape agreed with his feelings which would lead to his downfall. It’s not Caesar was over sympathetic to humans, he just watched them wipe themselves out, he just didn’t want that to happen to his own kind. By treating humans with a little respect he could lead his kind into the future of peace and prosperity. It is tough to compare the 1973 Caesar with the Caesar from 2011/2014 when they are two totally different kind of leaders. Both want the same thing, peace with humans, but go about in different ways. MacDowell’s Caesar does appear to be a push over still clinging to his past and not thinking that much about his future. There are only a handful of other apes who surround themselves around him but he has a human assistant who aides him in making decisions on top of acting as good between with humans. Andy Serkis’ Caesar is a fearless leader who only surrounds himself with apes. Maurice is his number one confident, while Koba is his number one fighter. The new Caesar likes humans and has a soft for them also, but not once do you feel like he’s willing to put himself or any other ape in danger. When 1973 Caesar leaves the pack to find out about his parents, he leaves everyone vulnerable before finding out that a dictator wants control of the apes by the time he gets back. Caesar in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes never leaves his family until he is violently gunned down in an attempt to overthrow him.
Battle for the Planet of the Apes was a fitting end to a franchise that simply ran out of ideas and story. Caesar was hailed as the leader of the great ape race but made a few errors that lead to many of his kind to perish in war after war. He didn’t come across as someone who showed much sympathy towards the fallen as he lead the charge against humans. He does his best to protect his kind even though none of the battles would have happened if he stayed out of the Forbidden City. Sure, someone, somewhere would have gone into the city at some point and set off this battle, but Ape City was still brand new and didn’t really have the proper protections in place to defend itself. In the very first movie, Charlton Heston had a really hard time getting in and out of Ape City because those apes had everything under lock and key. Every start-up civilization has its weak points and those will go far in determining how well it will survive under pressure. Caesar and the early apes somehow managed to fight off invading humans but at great cost.
One would think that by 1973 the special effects in Hollywood would be better than they were in 1968 but you’d be wrong. This final installment was very silly and stupid in terms of characters, plot, and outcome. Humans and apes died on-screen and their acting was very sloppy. The apes costumes were great like always but the ability to fight a war in them was not overly exciting. The battle was shorter than the build up which was disappointing. This turned out to be the last movie because a franchise can only survive enough punches before finally going down for the count.
my final thoughts: Battle for the Planet of the Apes is probably the second worse movie of the series behind Beneath the Planet of the Apes. There was not much to like about this movie because the story didn’t lead to an epic battle like it builds itself up to be. Only true fans of the series will like this installment, while I’d recommend the average movie goer to avoid it to save yourself the trouble of getting upset at the way things ended. I’m scoring it higher the Beneath based on the fact apes are actually in the movie the whole time which wasn’t the case in the second film.
my star rating: 3 out 10
rottentomatoes.com: 38% out 100%
rogerebert.com: 2 out 4