Battle for the Planet of the Apes Review

The Film

And so we reach the final chapter of the Planet of the Apes cinematic franchise. Roddy McDowall returns to play Caesar once more. The budget is inflated slightly up to $1.8 dollars and we are promised that it will be “The most suspenseful showdown ever filmed as two civilizations battle for the right to inherit what's left of the earth!”. I would argue that this promise would fall foul of the Trades Description act by a fairly large margin.

The date is not specified although at a rough guess it is meant to be twenty-seven years after the events of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. Nuclear war has devastated the major cities and Caesar (McDowall) rules an ape colony, which is attempting to live in harmony with humans. MacDonald (Stoker) informs Caesar that the future of the Earth is doomed as foretold by Caesar’s own parents. Caesar, MacDonald and Virgil (Williams) venture into the radioactive forbidden city to get the videotapes of his parents so they can prove this one way or another. They succeed but the mutant inhabitants of the old ruins notice their presence. The mutants follow the apes back in order to wage war on them. Meanwhile back in the ape colony Aldo (Akins) leads the gorillas in a revolt. He wants all the power for the gorillas and in turn he wants all humans enslaved and/or killed. A war ensues between the two sides and the film fails entirely to tie up any loose ends whatsoever.

This is by far and away the worst Planet of the Apes film. Every single apes film at the very least had a saving grace whereas this one has a dodgy concept, atrocious script and lacklustre finale. There are no convincing villains. Aldo is an obvious candidate but he is just too weak to be a villain, Ursus (from Beneath the Planet of the Apes ) would have eaten him for breakfast. The mutants could also be villains but they are just a bunch of extras in bad costumes driving around in an old school bus (I kid you not). The theme of the film is creating your own destiny, changing the future by choosing a different path in the present. This is indicated by the Lawgiver at the beginning and at the end of the film (Unlikely as it may seem, played by John Huston). He is recalling these events from the year 2670 so it is obvious that the future was changed. It’s just a shame that the main body of the film gave no indication as to how the future was altered. As far as I could see the future according to Planet of the Apes and Beneath the Planet of the Apes could still occur. The battle towards the end is more of a minor skirmish and the whole thing fails to look in the least bit like two civilisations battling for supremacy.

The acting is for the most part risible but this can be laid squarely at the door of the script. McDowall and Trundy (Playing Lisa again) make the most of their parts but there is just nothing to work with here. The script is filled with asinine lines and stilted dialogue. The mutants are especially awful and they are about as scary as a girl-scout troupe.

Bizarrely, the makeup here is some of the best in the series. I didn’t spot a single dodgy rubber mask and the attention to detail on all of the characters was outstanding. Unfortunately the effects in the war sequence leave a lot to be desired. Lack lustre explosions and popgun sound effects make this the least convincing war I’ve seen.

In my last review I blamed the budget for the failings of the film, but this time there is no hiding place. The budget was the same as for Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (in fact they had $100,000 more) and yet this fails to match the quality of its predecessor.

I rarely give films very low marks, as there is usually something that I like about a film, some small point that makes it worth watching. Battle for the Planet of the Apes has none of these things. It also commits the most heinous of crimes. It is boring… deathly dull in fact. As with a lot of Sci-Fi film franchises (or for that matter film franchises in general) the last in the franchise is a disastrous last grab for box office dollars and this is no exception.

The Disc

The final film disc in the box set is in fact the worst. The menus are as accomplished as ever and there are 24 chapter stops.

The picture is the usual 2.35:1 non-anamorphic print (no surprise there). Unfortunately it is also the weakest of the transfers. There is little or no print damage but the colours are washed out in a lot of scenes and the picture seemed much softer than the other films in the box. To add insult to injury there is also a fair amount of artifacting in the battle scenes when smoke goes flying.

The Dolby Surround track is weak and lack-lustre. John Huston is almost drowned out at the beginning of the film and although it improves, it’s not by much I’m afraid.

Extras? Well there are the usual trailers. Oh hang on, there is also a trailer for the computer game on this disc as well, so that’s an improvement I suppose. The best extra is the self-contained Planet of the Apes website. When I inserted the DVD into my PC it asked to install PCFriendly. As PCfriendly has a habit of messing up my PC I never install it. As a result I manually looked through a lot of the web pages on the disc and they look accomplished. There is a timeline for each film and several clips from the films and the documentary. I didn’t spot any information that couldn’t be gained from watching the documentary or the films, even so this is a nice addition.

This is a sad end to a great film franchise. Every film up until this point had something going for it, until now. The disc is also a disappointment with an average transfer and below par sound. The only high point is the extras, which are much better than the preceding discs (if you own a PC). Stay tuned, as my next review will cover the extra disc containing the documentary. Until then all I can say is if you see this film sold on its own don’t be tempted to buy it.

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