Monday, June 20, 2016

Battle For The Planet Of The Apes!

Battle for the Planet of the Apes is generally held by most to be the weakest installment of the film series. I'd have to agree. There were indications that the fourth movie was to be the final one, showcasing how the Apes triggered their rise, so the story here seems at some level unnecessary. But that said, the movie does show the beginnings of story elements which showed up in earlier movies.

The story offers up a frame set hundreds of years in the future and gives us John Huston as "The Lawgiver" who relates what happened in the early days following the events of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. And this is the most confusing part of the tale. We follow Caesar and Lisa from the previous movie and they have now had a son named Cornelius. We also see that Aldo from the earlier movie is now "General Aldo" and his pugnacious attitude causes a lot of the conflict in the story. The main villain of the tale though is Governor Kolp, formerly head of the security for the Governor in the last movie, who leads the mutant human survivors of a nuclear war still living in the ruins of the city.

Apes live in relatively harmony with humans in what is often called "Ape City", but which is mostly a collection of tree houses and wooden huts. There is a brewing conflict as the Gorillas led by Aldo seem to want to segregate the humans out, but Caesar supported by wise apes like the Orangutan Virgil keep the peace but barely. An expedition by Casear and Virgil alongside a human McDonald leads the mutants there to attack Ape City and that is the nominal "battle" of the movie's title.

This is a ramshackle movie with a shifting focus that doesn't allow the narrative to find firm footing. Too much doesn't make sense too much of the time and simple solutions seem to be bypassed in order to allow the story unfold as the writers desire. Distances are a big problem, as at times the distance between Ape City and the Forbidden City seems vast and at other times short. The mutant army is on the march for about half the movie and don't make many efforts to hide their presence, but nonetheless are able to effectively sneak up on the Apes in a wide open field.

As much as I can detect it, the theme of the movie seems to be that societies are complicated and that the aspirations of Caesar aside, the notion that Ape society will not be fundamentally different from the flawed and violent human society which preceded it. But despite this lesson and the foreknowledge that the audience has that eventually Apes will ascend and humans will fall low, we end the movie in the time of the Lawgiver with humans and Apes in relative harmony. But I guess we're supposed to see that won't last, and that explains the tear on the face of the statue of Caesar which closes the film.

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