The Video Vacuum (thevideovacuum) wrote,
The Video Vacuum



J. Lee (Death Wish 4:  The Crackdown) Thompson was originally supposed to direct the first Planet of the Apes, but he was unavailable, so the producers let him direct the fourth and fifth movies in the series instead. 


It is now 1991 and America is run by a totalitarian government.  When a plague kills off all the cats and dogs in the world, the humans turn monkeys into domestic slaves.  Ricardo Montalban still has the offspring of Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter from the third film, who is now named Caesar and has grown up to be played by… Roddy McDowall.  Caesar is disgusted by how The Man hassles his ape brothers and when Montalban is captured and killed by the evil governor, he vows revenge and incites a revolt among the apes. 


This is a solid premise for a sequel, but the social commentary is far more overt and heavy handed this time out (the apes are obvious stand-ins for blacks during both slavery and the Civil Rights Movement) and the tone is considerably darker and much more downbeat than the previous films in the series.  There are also a bunch of glaring continuity errors that will have you scratching your head.  Consider that in the previous film Caesar was named Milo.  Or that even though the film is set 20 years in the future, Ricardo Montalban doesn’t age one bit.  Or that the plague was supposed to take place two CENTURIES after the events of the last film, not two decades.  Or that the first ape to speak was NOT named Aldo, but actually Milo… err… Caesar. 


The scenes of simian torture and rioting apes are effective and the hints at monkey breeding are eyebrow raising, but for the most part, the allegories Thompson is making are awkwardly handled and the symbolism is thudding and obvious.  Luckily for the audience, at about the ¾ mark Thompson gives the social commentary a rest and gives us nothing but apes rioting, looting, and blowing away policemen with semi-automatic weapons.  This is definitely the most action packed of all the Apes movies, but it’s just a shame you have to wait about an hour for it to really kick in. 


Despite the muddled message, the flick still manages to lay the groundwork for the first film and is able to bring the series full circle.  This was not to be the last stop to the Monkey House for 20th Century Fox however.  The articulate apes returned the following year for one more go around in Battle for the Planet of the Apes. 

Tags: c, planet of the apes series, sci-fi, sequel

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