Godzilla (2014) Leaves Room for Improvement in Sequel


It was just last year in mid-December before I could claim that I had seen all 28 Godzilla films. Okay, 29 films if we count that flick released in 1998. It was a journey dating back to a Sunday afternoon in the mid-70s when I first watched King Kong vs. Godzilla. There were highs and lows but I enjoyed every minute of it. This past May, Godzilla returned to the big screen for his official 30th film during the 60th anniversary of the franchise. At the time, this blogger was taking a break. But I was still going to the movies and I was there opening weekend. So, my series on Godzilla isn’t complete until I offer up my thoughts on the latest film.Godzilla_(2014)_poster

First, I’ll get it out of the way…I liked it. Godzilla (2014) is not my favorite film of the franchise but nor is it my least favorite. It has plenty of good going for it but there are some glaring negatives that can’t be ignored. Director Gareth Edwards had previously given us Monsters (2010), a very fun film that I highly recommend. So, he knows how to put together a monster movie. The movie does play around with the origin of Godzilla but I’m okay with that. It handles it in a way that is okay and really didn’t bother me like I know it did some people.

Our movie starts out in 1954 and we witness a secret nuclear test. A bomb with a monster symbol on it is launched just as we see what appears to be a giant creature emerging from the sea. Then, we flash forward to 1999 where scientists are investigating a giant skeleton in a Philippian mine. Next to it are two giant eggs, one unhatched while the other is broken. It appears that one has escaped the mine. Meanwhile, in Japan, a nuclear power plant is investigating strange seismic activity. Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad) sends his wife Sandra into the reactor to investigate. Suddenly, the reactor is breached and radioactivity is released, killing Sandra and the other technicians. Everyone is evacuated as the plant begins to melt down and explode.

Godzila preFifteen years later, Joe is a mental and emotional wreck, hell bent on proving something was behind the plant disaster. His son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Kick-Ass) is now in the Navy and growing weary of bailing his estranged father out of jail. Joe knows there is a cover-up and returns to Japan for answers. There, he and his son discover the plant is active again just before getting arrested. Their timing coincides with another incident as a giant winged creature attacks the plant, ultimately killing Joe. The creature is classified as a MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) and Ford finds himself in the center of a mission to destroy it. It turns out this is one of two from the eggs in the Philippian mine. This triggers the return of Godzilla, who we discover was the monster the military tried to kill in 1954 (a homage to the events of the first and original film). With the monsters set to clash and the military desperate to save everyone, our battleground is set.Godzilla 1

Godzilla offers up some great battle sequences. The scene where Godzilla first breathes fire is iconic. The MUTO does closely resemble the Cloverfield monster but, that aside, it is a great design. While the new design for Godzilla is not my favorite (yes, I agree his head is too small), he is still better than some of the goofier and more campy designs we’ve seen before. So, again, not the best but not the worst. I do like how we have a slow build-up to Godzilla’s arrival on screen. However, it would have been nice to see more of the battles and a little less of Ford’s character. His wife, Ellie (Elizabeth Olson, Avengers: Age of Ultron) also didn’t serve much of a purpose. Who I wanted to see more of was Joe and Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe, Inception). His line, “Let them fight”, really symbolized what many people wanted.

Godzilla 2While I agree that we needed more Godzilla in this movie, I disagree with many fans who disliked the movie. As I stated earlier, I enjoyed it. Yes, it could have been better but let’s not forget 1998. It could have been much worse. It was a box office success and a sequel has been announced for June 8, 2018. With the announcement from Gareth Edwards that Legendary Pictures has licensed Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah from Toho Pictures, it is leaving many of us Godzilla fans hopeful that the sequel will offer up more of what we really want to see.Godzilla 3

Godzilla is definitely worth checking out. Watch the trailer now and buy the movie to add to your collection when it is released on September 16.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) Ends Our Journey Through The Apes Universe


DOTPOTAIt all started with a novel written in 1963. We’ve journeyed through five theatrical films, two TV series, a misguided attempt to reboot the franchise and then, the true reboot in 2011. Now, this past summer, after we witnessed the rise of the apes, it was time for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

With a good story and solid CGI, it was no surprise that a sequel was announced for Rise of the Planet of the Apes. With the ALZ virus spreading at the end of that film, we were left to wonder if this was the apocalyptic moment of this franchise. Indeed it was. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes begins ten years after mankind’s civilization has collapsed. Caesar (once again played brilliantly by Andy Serkis) now leads a small society of apes in the Muir Woods, his refuge from the first film. Koba is his second-in-command and is looking for a more aggressive way to lead while orangutan Maurice is still providing words of wisdom for Caesar. Caesar is now married to Cornelia and has a son, Blue Eyes. Our film opens with Blue Eyes and another chimpanzee, Ash, encountering a human in the forest named Carver (Kirk Acevedo, Fringe), who panics and shoots Ash. Carver quickly reunites with his friends while Blue Eyes gets his father and the apes. Caesar asks them to leave and they do. After not seeing or hearing from humans for years, it appears some have survived and could be a threat to their peaceful existence.DOTPOTA 1

The survivors were immune to the ALZ virus and are struggling in the remains of San Francisco. They need electricity and believe a water plant in the forest could provide just that. Dreyfus (Gary Oldman, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Dark Knight) is the war mongering leader of this ragtag group while Malcolm (Jason Clarke, the upcoming Terminator: Genisys) and his wife Ellie (Keri Russell, Dark Skies) are heading up the group that wants to go into the forest to restore power. However, Caesar leads a large group of apes into the city and warns the humans to stay away. Most of the humans are shocked and scared to hear him speak but Malcolm wants another chance to earn the apes trust. Dreyfus gives him three days, during which time he is arming the humans and preparing for war.

Malcolm earns the trust of Caesar, especially after Ellie helps his ailing wife following the birth of their second child. However, just as Malcolm is unaware of Dreyfus’ actions back in San Francisco, Caesar is unaware that Koba has his owns plans for war. With the peace efforts between Caesar and Malcolm being thwarted by both Dreyfus and Koba, the two forces are headed for a confrontation. Ultimately, the final confrontation between Koba and Caesar is reminiscent of Caesar and Aldo from the early 70s, solidifying Caesar’s status as a dynamic leader.

DOTPOTA 2Carrying similar themes seen in Battle for the Planet of the Apes, this movie far surpasses the efforts made back in 1973. The CGI continues to amaze to the point you believe you are looking at real apes. The battle sequences are fantastic and again, outside of the usual moment or two, you really get drawn into the events unfolding on the screen. Matt Reeves assumed the directorial reigns and moves the franchise beyond our modern world, as seen in the first film, into the post-apocalyptic world now jointly ruled by man and ape. Add to that a great soundtrack by Michael Giacchino (Star Trek) and you have a really fun adventure.

The stage has been set for a third film and, after the huge success of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, it is officially coming on July 29, 2016. Sharp eyes will notice that a ship seen in the trailer was nowhere to be seen in the final movie. That’s because it was edited out at the last moment, saving that confrontation for the third film. A ship of survivors is indeed headed to San Francisco and the battle with the apes has just begun. And we should not forget the space mission to Mars mentioned in the first film. That is a storyline not yet resolved. As for James Franco’s character of Dr. Will Rodman, his fate remains unknown. He has a cameo appearance here via a video flashback. While some believe he could return, I believe it’s safe to say he did survive the ALZ virus considering he was at ground zero in the first film.DOTPOTA 4

I highly recommend Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. These two new films have created a fun and entertaining new Apes universe. The charm of the original five films will forever have a special place in my heart and cannot be replaced. But this new franchise is getting everything right and definitely worth checking out if you haven’t seen them yet. Go watch the trailer for this chapter and plan a double feature once the Blu-ray gets released, most likely in time for the holidays.

This ends our journey through the Planet of the Apes franchise. It’s always fun to go back and revisit these films once every few years or so. Now, we go from one beloved franchise to another. Back in May, a big monster returned to the screen while I was taking some time off. Having reviewed every film in that franchise on this site, I would be remiss if I didn’t go back and review this one. So, next time, it’s time to take a look at Godzilla (2014)!DOTPOTA 3

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) Revives The Franchise


ROTPOTAIt had been ten years since Tim Burton’s attempt to reboot and revive the Planet of the Apes franchise. The movie had done well at the box office despite a lukewarm response from longtime fans. Ultimately, 20th Century Fox chose not to do a sequel and put the franchise to rest once again. However, there were plans brewing to try again with another reboot. This time, it would be an origin story taking the franchise into a new direction. And the result was fantastic.

In 2011, Rise of the Planet of the Apes was released and become an instant hit. Commercially successful and connecting with both old and new fans alike, it did everything right. Its’ intent was to offer something new while paying homage to the original five film series. There are no references to Tim Burton’s film. I think everyone agrees that movie is largely forgettable so why fight it, go ahead and forget it. With the 2011 film, writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (the upcoming Jurassic World) take ideas from the original Pierre Boulle novel and move into a new yet familiar territory under the directorial reigns of Rupert Wyatt, heading up only his second theatrical film.

The movie begins with hunters tracking down and capturing chimpanzees in a forest in a scene pulled right out of the 1968 original but with the roles reversed. Immediately, we see how stunning the CGI effects are. Now, I’m always going to enjoy traditional makeup but, when done right, CGI can be fantastic and it is just that here. Add some talents like Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies), and you get characters that look natural. Our captured chimpanzees are headed to Gen-Sys where Dr. Will Rodman (James Franco, Spider-man) is testing a new cure for Alzheimer’s called ALZ-112. After seeing amazing results in a chimp named Bright Eyes (another 1968 reference), he’s ready for human testing. However, Bright Eyes goes ballistic in front of the investors and is killed. As it turns out, she was trying to protect a new-born baby. With the project shelved and all chimpanzees ordered euthanized, Will saves the baby and takes it home, where it immediately displays amazing intelligence.ROTPOTA 3

It appears that the ALZ-112 drug has the side effect of advancing intelligence. Will takes the chance and administers it to his father Charles (John Lithgow, 3rd Rock from the Sun), who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. The results are almost instant and the drug appears to work. Charles immediately takes to the baby chimp and names him Caesar (yes, a familiar name in the franchise). Caesar continues to grow in both size and intelligence. He acts like a human, having his own room and speaking in sign language. However, hitting that age when all children begin to question things, Caesar begins to wonder if he simply a pet and wants to know where he came from. Will tells him about his mother and how she died.

ROTPOTA 1As the effects of the drug begin to wear off and Charles begins to succumb to Alzheimer’s again, Will realizes more testing is needed. After he manages to get the project going again at the lab, things take a turn for the worse at home after Caesar’s natural violent tendencies surface after defending Charles against an angry neighbor. Caesar is removed and taken to a facility where he lives with other primates. With the new testing moving forward at a rushed pace, exposing a lab technician to what ultimately turns into a disease for the human race and Caesar growing in intelligence and becoming a leader amongst the other primates, a confrontation seems inevitable. The results are amazing.

References abound in this film and are almost too many to mention. From an orangutan named Maurice to an evil handler named Dodge Landon (Tom Felton, Harry Potter franchise), it’s clear the writers knew the franchise and knew what the fans wanted. In many ways, this movie is a remake of the original Conquest for the Planet of the Apes. With more realistic primates, it really moves the franchise into the real world. The battle on the bridge was fantastic, setting up the conflict between the intelligent apes and the stunned humans. When Caesar speaks, the looks on their faces show just how much advantage the apes have over their stunned masters.ROTPOTA 2

There are two key elements in the movie that will carry the franchise forward. The disease is in the background as Caesar’s movement is building within the primate house. But, by the end of the movie, we see that the disease is real threat, one that will have deadly effects even more present by the second film. There is also a space mission to Mars playing out on TVs in the background. We know the ship is lost by the end of movie, a detail that will surely be picked up in a future film.

Now, nothing will replace the original films but this film was the start of something fun and entertaining. It was a huge hit at the box office, so no surprise that a sequel was ordered. If you’ve avoided it, check out the trailer for the first film. Then, next time, the apes have risen, so it is time for the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014).ROTPOTA 4

Tim Burton Offers Up His Vision of Planet of the Apes (2001)


POTARemaking a classic movie is always a gamble at best. Fans of the original are always ready to pounce on anyone who dares touch “their” film. Remaking a sci-fi classic is almost always a recipe for disaster. Your best bet is to take the classic in a different direction in hopes of making a film that is at least as good as the original yet fresh. However, when you don’t really offer anything new or worthwhile, you might as well have taken the time to create a different film altogether. Someone should have told director Tim Burton (Batman, Edward Scissorhands) that before he signed on for the 2001 remake of Planet of the Apes.

20th Century Fox knew what a cash cow the Apes franchise was and had been attempting a remake since the late 80s. At one time, Arnold Schwarzenegger was signed on with a long line of possible directors and producers that included names such as Oliver Stone and James Cameron. Years later, Tim Burton took on the role of director with a new script that was essentially a remake of the original 1968 classic. Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal wrote what was ultimately a confusing story that should have been more original. It lacked any likeable characters. In the process of trying to rehash what had already been done better in 1968, they ended up confusing the fans, especially with the cliffhanger ending. Konner and Rosenthal have some good (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country) and some bad (Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, The Beverly Hillbillies) films to their credit. Burton is a modern-day genius to many but any genius can have a bad film and Planet of the Apes is just that.POTA 2

The movie starts off in 2029 aboard the space station Oberon. Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg, Transformers: Age of Extinction) handles the apes specifically trained for space missions. When chimpanzee Pericles disappears in a strange electromagnetic storm, Leo takes another space pod in pursuit. He ends up crash landing on a strange planet in the year 5021. Here, apes can speak and rule a primitive society while treating humans as slaves. Leo is quickly befriended by the female chimpanzee Ari (Helena Bonham Carter, Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street) while also turning the eye of fellow female slave Daena (Estella Warren). Tim Roth (The Incredible Hulk) is cast as the evil General Thade, who has romantic interests in Ari while also wanting to wipe out the human race. Ari helps Leo and a group of humans escape in pursuit of Calima (eventually revealed to be mean Caution Live Animals), a holy site forbidden by the apes. A signal is being transmitted from there that Leo believes is his space station Oberon. With General Thade in hot pursuit, a clash between the humans and the apes seems inevitable.

POTA 1Planet of the Apes certainly has a good cast. In addition to those already mentioned, David Warner (Star Trek VI) appears as Senator Sandar and Michael Clarke Duncan (The Green Mile, Daredevil) is Colonel Attar, right hand gorilla to General Thade. Paul Giamatti (The Amazing Spider-Man 2) is slave trader Limbo, the comic relief in a film that didn’t need any comedy. We even get cameos from original cast members Charlton Heston (as Zaius, father to Thade) and Linda Harrison. Unfortunately, what really hurts the movie is the script. It gets far too convoluted towards the end with time travel and revelations that really don’t have an impact on the audience. Even the big cliffhanger makes no sense. Sure, it is kind of cool and maybe a sequel would have answered some questions but it seems thrown in just for shock value.

The best part about Planet of the Apes is the fantastic make-up designs by Rick Baker. They were realistic and very believable. Sure, the last two movies have stunning CGI but those of us who are old school will always appreciate good makeup and this movie has it. Too bad there was little else to hold my attention.POTA 3

I recommend 2001s Planet of the Apes as a curiosity at best. Stick with the original flicks or the new franchise for some better entertainment. This version spawned a few toys and a couple of paperback novels, all of which quickly found their way into discount bins. Check out the trailer for yourself before tracking down the movie so you can get an idea of the journey awaiting you.

Next time, we reboot the franchise again with Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011).POTA 5          

Planet of the Apes Takes The Next Step Onto The Small Screen


Go ApeDespite a shrinking budget, the Planet of the Apes movies were still making money. By 1973 and after five films, it was clear that the theatrical part of the franchise was exhausted. But 20th Century Fox saw that there was still money to be made due to the high ratings the movies received on broadcast television. With producer Arthur P. Jacob’s death in 1973, the franchise was turned over to Stan Hough, who envisioned a transition to television. By the fall of 1974, Planet of the Apes would become a weekly series.

The premise of this new TV series was essentially the same as we saw in the first two theatrical films. An Earth spaceship enters a time warp and crashes on Earth in the far future. The year is 3085, putting it several centuries after the Lawgiver’s speech from Battle for the Planet of the Apes and some 900 years before Taylor arrives. The spaceship is the same exact model as used by Taylor and Brent in the first two movies, giving a sense of continuity. Three ANSA astronauts are on board with one having died in the crash. Ron Harper (Land of the Lost) stars as Colonel Alan Virdon and James Naughton (The Paper Chase) is Major Peter Burke. Both are rescued by a human and they soon discover that apes can speak on this planet. They quickly learn that they are on Earth in the future and begin their journey to find a way back. They befriend a chimpanzee named Galen (the ever-present Roddy McDowell) with the ape forces in pursuit. Our gorilla leader is General Urko (Mark Lenard, Star Trek) and we even have a Councillor Zauis (Booth Colman), setting the stage for the standard episode as the humans and Galen would always be one step ahead of their pursuers. The biggest difference being that in this version, humans could talk but lacked the superior standing of the apes.POTA TV 1

The series only lasted 14 episodes due to low ratings but was actually quite enjoyable. In 1981, episodes were re-edited into five 90-minute movies with Roddy McDowell returning as an aged Galen to introduce the films, broadcast as part of a week-long celebration. The titles of the five films were Back to the Planet of the Apes, Forgotten City on the Planet of the Apes, Treachery and Greed on the Planet of the Apes, Life, Liberty and Pursuit on the Planet of the Apes and Farewell to the Planet of the Apes. Much like Fox had done before with the 1974 Go Ape campaign in bringing the first five films back to the theaters, viewers were encouraged to Go Ape once again.Old Galen

With Apes merchandise flooding the market in everything from action figures to puzzles to comic books, it’s no surprise that another attempt at a television series was made just one year later. In the fall of 1975, NBC brought the animated Return to the Planet of the Apes to Saturday morning television. The show only ran for 13 episodes but was an interesting interpretation, showing a more advanced ape culture including cars and planes. It involved a group of human astronauts crash landing on the future Earth and pursued by the apes. Familiar names abound including Cornelius, Zira, Urko and Zauis. While the animation was limited, the stories were actually quite good and offered up a different take on what was now a very familiar story.

POTA cartoonBy 1976, five movies and two television series later, the Apes franchise was exhausted. It would live on in repeats and home video, never losing its’ popularity despite the lack of new material. While the first five films thrived on VHS, both TV series never saw VHS releases. Now, thanks to DVD and Blu-ray, the entire original Apes saga is available for future generations.

Before we move on to the next chapter, I highly recommend tracking down the Power Records sets as well as the original comic books and magazines from Marvel that were published until 1977. Malibu Comics also revived the comic series in the 90s as well as the recent series from Boom! Comics that are set in the original Apes universe.POTA Comic

Also take the time to watch the superior documentary Behind the Planet of the Apes produced by AMC in 1998. It features Roddy McDowell as your host and includes quite a bit of behind the scenes footage along with cast interviews and an overview of the entire original Apes story.

Next time, we take the next step into some dark territory with Tim Burton’s 2001 vision of Planet of the Apes.     

Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) Is a Very Anti-Climatic End to the First Film Series


Go ApeOn June 15, 1973, the fifth and final entry in the original Apes saga was released to the theaters. Gone was the fanfare of the original. Gone was the star power of a Charlton Heston. Gone was the powerful soundtrack musings of Jerry Goldsmith. And gone was the big Hollywood budget, going from $5.8 million to $1.7 million in a little over five years. What we were left with a movie struggling to end the series on a high note with a climactic battle than barely rises above B movie fare. And so goes the Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973).

Arthur P. Jacobs returns as producer for what would ultimately be his next-to-last project prior to his death in June 1973, less than two weeks after this film’s release. The film is a direct sequel to Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972), being set a little more than a decade later following a nuclear war. The opening of the film is set in North America 2670 A.D. and we witness the Lawgiver (veteran actor and director John Huston, The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The Visitor, to name a few) introducing us to the continuing tale of revolutionary Caesar (played once again by Roddy McDowell). He is now a leader of a small group of apes and humans, attempting to co-exist. Caesar has settled down with a wife, Lisa (Natalie Trundy) and son Cornelius (Bobby Porter). However, the gorilla leader, General Aldo (veteran character actor Claude Atkins, The Twilight Zone and The Night Stalker) would rather rule with an iron fist. Caesar wants to learn of the future and is told by his human assistant MacDonald (Austin Stoker, playing the brother of the MacDonald character seen in Conquest) that the old records should still exist in the Forbidden City. Caesar, MacDonald and Virgil (singer Paul Williams, Phantom of the Paradise) travel to the city and Caesar sees footage of his mother Zira being interrogated by Dr. Hasslein (archival footage of Kim Hunter and Eric Braeden). They also find the city inhabited by mutants and being led by new Governor Kolp (again played by Severn Darden). Caesar, Virgil and MacDonald barely escape the city with their lives.BFTPOTA

However, now that the mutants know they exist, they desire a war to end the apes once and for all. Meanwhile, General Aldo is planning a takeover which is made easy once Caesar is devastated by his son’s mysterious injury. He has no idea that Aldo tried to kill Cornelius after the young ape discovered Aldo’s takeover plan. As Aldo begins to lock up the humans, the mutants are on their war. Caesar returns just in time to rally the apes and release the humans to lead them in a final battle. And once the dust settles, the real final confrontation between Caesar and Aldo happens as Caesar now knows it was Aldo who killed his son.

BFTPOTA 2Sadly, this final chapter was doomed from the first day of pre-production. Despite having Roddy McDowell back in the lead role, the movie suffered from a poor script and an incredibly low budget. The idea that a nuclear war would devastate society but leave a nice green valley within the time span of a decade or so is a stretch, even when watching a film about talking apes. The fact that all of the apes are wearing costumes that just happen to resemble those from the first three films really shows how low the budget was. I also wondered how the apes could have evolved so quickly to the point where they are all on the same level as Caesar now. And the final “battle” comes across looking like nothing more a weekend of larpers who just happened to acquire some explosives. Several scenes appear to be reused time and again, obviously to cover up how little of a battle it really was. As much as I love the original series, this final film makes me sad to see how quickly the series had fallen.

Paul Dehn is given story credit here while John and Joyce Covington are credited for the screenplay. As the Hollywood story goes, Paul wrote a story treatment but was unavailable for the rewrite. The Covington’s came in and wrote the script before Paul returned for some rewrites and tried to get a shared credit. In the end, he was only given credit for the story. However, one key difference remains that must go to Paul. The Covington’s had wanted to end with a futuristic school ground battle between a human and an ape, showing that the conflict between the races will go on. What we ended up seeing was a final scene where the Lawgiver is talking to a mix of humans and apes and a final shot of a statue of Caesar with a tear in its’ eye. Its’ message is ambiguous, implying joy that the races now live side-by-side or that the apocalyptic future is unavoidable. In either case, this was a horribly cheesing end to a series that had maintained the level of enjoyment for the first four films, despite an ever-shrinking budget.BFTPOTA 3

Despite my overall displeasure with Battle for the Planet of the Apes, I still recommend it if for no other reason than to enjoy Roddy McDowell in a role he was born to play. Make sure you go in with low expectations and watch the extended cut as it contains some extra footage. In one sequence, we see the new Governor of the Forbidden City decide not to launch an atomic bomb, which is later revealed to be the Alpha-Omega bomb. He is referred to as Governor Mendez (Paul Stevens), a clear nod to the Mendez leader seen in Beneath the Planet of the Apes, indicating that history may indeed be repeating itself.

Check out the trailer and watch the movie to judge for yourself. It’s definitely worth a Saturday afternoon matinee viewing. Next time, we take a look at next chapter of the Apes saga as our simian friends invade the wonderful world of television.BFTPOTA 4

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) Turns The Violence Up


Go ApeAfter the commercial success of Escape from the Planet of the Apes, 20th Century Fox wanted more of the Apes saga. Producer Arthur P. Jacobs and writer Paul Dehn reunited to continue the adventure while moving it in a new direction. British director J. Lee Thompson, best known for films such as Taras Bulba (1962), Eye of the Devil (1967) and Mackenna’s Gold (1969), came on board for the final two entries in the series. With baby Milo alive and well in 1973 at the end of Escape from the Planet of the Apes, a new timeline had been created. But was humanity still headed for destruction?

As we begin Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972), the timeline that Cornelius gives during the government hearing is now apparently either forgotten or changed. The centuries it originally took mankind to destroy themselves and apes to reign has been put on the fast track. We jump to 1991 and discover that the disease that wiped out all dogs and cats occurred in 1983. Humans have started keeping apes as pets, eventually training them to do simple household chores. By 1991, apes are now being used as slave labor, just as Cornelius stated they would, just on an accelerated timeline.

Roddy McDowell transitions from playing Cornelius to now playing his son Milo, still traveling with Armando’s (Ricardo Montalban) circus. After Milo inadvertently speaks out against police who are beating an ape, he runs away as Armando is arrested and interrogated by Inspector Kolp (Severn Darden, The Six Million Dollar Man). Kolp works for Governor Breck (Don Murray, The Viking Queen), the leader in this city in what now appears to almost a police state. Rather than give Milo away, Armando commits suicide by jumping out a window. Meanwhile, Milo is captured and sold in an auction to Governor Breck, who allows Milo to choose his own name. He chooses the name Caesar.CFTPOTA

Caesar begins working alongside Breck’s assistant MacDonald (Hari Rhodes, Daktari), who sympathizes with apes and soon discovers who Caesar really is. After Caesar finds out that Armando is dead, he begins to train the other apes, teaching them about combat and secretly collecting weapons. Caesar is building a resistance as the time has come for the apes to be in control of their own destiny. It is time for the birth of the planet of the apes.

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes continues the shift from apes being the oppressors to mankind being the root of all evil. You easily sympathize with the apes in this movie and root for Caesar to overpower the evil Governor Breck. Having McDowell play the lead character here makes sense and allows the actor to continue in the role he was meant to play. Natalie Trundy is back as well, this time playing chimpanzee Lisa, who becomes the love interest of Caesar. In fact, Lisa becomes the second ape to speak, saying the words “No” to express how she does not want Caesar to kill Breck. This is another change from what Cornelius had previously described, mentioning how it was an ape named Aldo who first spoke. However, we would get to see Aldo in the next movie.

CFTPOTA 1The racial tensions present in this movie were a direct parallel of what the United States was experiencing in the 60s and 70s. The violence present here was much more than seen in previous movies, which played a part in some heavy editing prior to the film’s release. Some clever rework at the end and a new voiceover by Roddy McDowell toned down the violence. The recent Blu-ray release has the restored violent scenes that are a little jarring upon first viewing. However, I think they enhance the movie and are worth checking out. A pre-title sequence involving an escaping ape was also apparently filmed but was not in the original release nor was it restored for the Blu-ray. The smaller budget is easily visible in the limited set pieces but location shooting covers most of this up.MSDCOOF FE002

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes was not a movie in heavy TV rotation in the 70s, at least not in Wichita. While the first three films and the final fifth film were often shown on TV, the fourth film was always skipped. When Power Records did their book and record adaptations, it was also omitted. However, it did receive a novelization and comic book adaptation. I didn’t view this film until the late 80s and I still enjoy it today as much as I did then. I recommend checking out the unrated version.

Check out the trailer as well as the original ending of the film. I enjoy this movie quite a bit but always think of it more as a separate entry apart from the first three as it just has a more adult tone. I wish this is where things would have stopped. However, next time get ready for the Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973).CFTPOTA 4

Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971) Is A Fun Entry In The Adventure Series


Go ApeAs our movie begins, we see what looks to be a familiar shoreline. The opening moments are reminiscent of what we have seen in the first two movies. Then, the shocking sound of a helicopter makes us realize this will be a very different Apes movie. We see Taylor’s spaceship floating in the ocean, eventually brought to shore by the military. As high-ranking officials salute and welcome the three astronauts to the United States, they remove their helmets, revealing they are in fact chimpanzees. Thus begins the great third chapter in the Apes saga, Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971).

To enjoy this movie, you have to take some immediate leaps of logic. First, the last we saw in Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), Earth was destroyed. It becomes immediately obvious that this movie does not take place on that world. Well, more accurately, it does but it takes place in a different time in what was then only two years away rather than thousands. We are quickly told that a scientist by the name of Dr. Milo (Sal Mineo, Who Killed Teddy Bear) was an ape with knowledge well beyond his years. He not only found Taylor’s sunken spaceship but had it pulled up and restored enough to survive the destruction of Earth in 3955, conveniently finding its’ way to just the right time period. Okay, at this point, if you’ve accepted talking apes, this really shouldn’t be that hard to follow. Just go with it and enjoy the ride.EFTPOTA

After our three chimpanzees are taken to the Los Angeles Zoo, we quickly lose Dr. Milo as he is killed by a depressed gorilla. Our focus now shifts to two familiar faces, those of Cornelius (once again played by the returning Roddy McDowell) and his wife Zira (Kim Hunter). They are befriended by Dr. Lewis Dixon (Bradford Dillman, The Swarm and Piranha) and Dr. Stephanie Braxton (Natalie Trundy in the second of her eventual three roles in the Apes franchise). Meanwhile, the President of the United States (William Windom, Captain Decker of the classic Star Trek episode “The Doomsday Machine”) is taking the advice of Dr. Otto Hasslein (Eric Braeden, The Rat Patrol and Colossus: The Forbin Project), a renowned scientist previously mentioned in the first two films. Hasslein knows that Cornelius and Zira represent a future where apes rule and he decides that eliminating them will alter the future and save mankind. Cornelius and Zira go from celebrities to most wanted, on the run as Zira is pregnant and ready to give birth.

EFTPOTA 1Escape from the Planet of the Apes is very different in tone from what we had seen in the first two films. It does require some leaps of logic but, once you do, you can enjoy what I feel is actually a better film that it’s’ predecessor. I thoroughly enjoy Beneath the Planet of the Apes, but here we continue the story and begin to come full circle in how apes will eventually rule the planet. Cornelius offers us a timeline of how, over centuries, apes go from pets to servants after a disease wipes out all dogs and cats. As servants move into slavery, the key moment when an ape named Aldo says “no” is the catalyst to apes ruling Earth as mankind continues on the path to self-destruction. The action and suspense turns the tables as man takes the place of gorillas, now hunting down Cornelius and Zira, who ultimately have to rely on humans for help just as they once helped Taylor and Brent. It all works to tie the first three movies together.

Even with a smaller budget, the movie really looks just as expensive due to the ability to use real-life sets and only three actors in make-up. Jerry Goldsmith returns for a whimsical soundtrack that picks up on elements of the first film while standing out as unique, enhancing the new surroundings of the movie. Paul Dehn is back as writer and is now on board for the rest of the series, just as producer Arthur P. Jacobs continues his work of producing the saga. Don Taylor directed the third Apes chapter, his most well-remembered genre film alongside Damien: Omen II (1978) and The Final Countdown (1980). He also directed quite a bit of classic television, including episodes of Night Gallery and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.EFTPOTA 2

The film clearly sets things up for a sequel and a new timeline of events. Ricardo Montalban (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn) makes the first of two appearances as circus owner Armando, helping save Zira’s baby Milo, putting into motion the arrival of talking apes centuries ahead of the events described by Cornelius. Despite being rushed into production, Escape from the Planet of the Apes was ultimately more successful than Beneath the Planet of the Apes, assuring more Apes films to come.

Check out the trailer (warning, it is full of spoilers) and come back next time as we witness the Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972).EFTPOTA 4