Published on June 27th, 2014 | by Brad0
Ape Fridays – Conquest of the Planet of the Apes
So, after the deaths of Cornelius and Zira, and the first word of their infant son Milo, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes picks up 18 years later, with Armando (Ricardo Montalban) and Milo, now named Caesar (Roddy McDowall) arriving in a city to advertise the coming of Armando’s circus. Some eight years previous, a virus had wiped out all of the Earth’s cats and dogs, and humans had begun to take apes as pets to replace them. Upon learning how easily they could be taught basic tasks, they were soon used for menial labour. By the far-flung nightmare future of 1991 (!), the North American economy is based on ape slave labour.
After witnessing an incident of brutal punishment of a disobedient gorilla, Caesar and Armando are separated, with Caesar hiding amongst the slave apes whilst Armando is interrogated about his whereabouts. Ricardo Montalban is great again, really bringing a sense of desperation and terror to a character who had been enjoyable light relief in the previous instalment. The movie belongs to Roddy McDowall, though. Taking Caesar through the experience of the American slave is an ingenious conceit, and though it gets a little ham-fisted at times, it’s really well-handled.
There’s a sci-fi dystopia feel to the world of the city, which makes it all feel very oppressive. The production design is pretty fantastic, and as per usual the ape makeup looks great. The film is pretty flawed in places, but a lot of that is down to budgetary constraints. There’s a very odd sequence where Caesar is instigating rebellion amongst the apes, where he just kind of wanders up and stares at them and they start disobeying immediately. The ending’s a bit problematic, too. Originally, it ends with a speech full of fire and brimstone from Caesar, culminating in the main villain being beaten to death, implying that the cycle of hate and violence will never end, but that didn’t test well, so an addendum about humanity and mercy was added in post. It doesn’t really work, which is a shame, as up to then Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is a mostly very enjoyable movie.
Obviously, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes has a very large influence on the beginnings of the rebooted series with Rise. The slavery sequences and Caesar’s character arc are very effective, and Ricardo Montalban is absolutely great as Armando, adding a real weight and tragedy. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is a good movie, probably on a par with its predecessor. Join me later on today for Battle For the Planet of the Apes. I don’t hear good things.