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  • Rev Horror

Battle for the Planet of the Apes

Dir. J. Lee Thompson (1973)

Ten years after leading the ape uprising that took over the Earth, Caesar must protect both species against a violent ape uprising and a dangerous human cult.

Trudging onwards in our exploration of the upcoming inevitable Humans vs. Ape War for Supremacy, we've finally come to the final film in the original 5-part Quintology (?) of the Planet of the Apes saga. Battle for the Planet of the Apes is a very long title but, thankfully, a relatively short movie, running just over an hour and a half. The dystopian monkey future has never been more dim (or slow moving), at least as far as humans are concerned, because we know that things are about to take a turn for the worse as Ape rule progresses towards its foreshadowed conclusion. It takes a long time to get there, however, and Battle positions itself as clearly the most dawdling film in the series so far.

Caesar (Roddy McDowall) has taken command of the ruling force of Apes, but they currently live in harmony with the humans (as long as the humans stay in line and obey the rules). After taking a journey to the city to recover old television footage of his parents, Caesar & The Gang run afoul of an underground group of irradiated humans who are itching for a fight. Upon return home, the Gorilla army, which has likewise been anxious for the shootings to start, have begun an uprising, further inching the two sides closer to all-out war. In the eternal struggle to determine who wins evolution, it's Ape vs. Man for one final go-round... at least until Marky Mark resurrects the franchise.

Battle is probably the worst of the franchise because it lacks a lot of the charm inherent to the previous four films. Gone is most of the philosophical themes, gone is the heartfelt humor, gone is anything other than a snail's-paced plot and a violent final battle. It's anarchic, in a way: even when things are good, there's always someone around the corner looking to fuck things up, so why try in the first place? Is there any way to avoid your future, or is it inevitable? It's a question that, with a better story and direction, could have been worth devoting an entire film to. This isn't it, however, as the film feels like it loses its message more often than not and never really dedicates itself to answering the question it poses.

It's a dark film, to be sure, but it never really makes its audience care in the same way the previous films did. There are a few identifiable moments, a few times where those watching will feel some kind of connection to the apes (or humans) on-screen, but they're few and far between. Because the films don't fully connect, in that Battle ends something like 200 years before the events in the original film. The question that is posed is never fully answered: do the apes change their future, or is this just all that came before? Again, a question worth answering, and one that the film never deigns to attempt. It's a watchable film regardless, but it definitely lacks a lot of the impact of its predecessors, and it's not one that feels very necessary other than to be a (weak) bookend to the series.

Who this movie is for: Science fiction geeks, Planet of the Apes completionists, Futurists

Bottom line: Battle for the Planet of the Apes is by far the weakest of the original five films, but that's not to say that its not entertaining at times. It's worth a watch just to close out the series, but it's not very appealing beyond that. There are a few moments of ape-on-ape carnage, and the humans muck things up a bit too, but it's a relatively forgettable entry into the franchise that needed to end with the last film. The whole series is streaming now on Hulu, so you can give them all a watch before the new film hits theaters.

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