And we're at the final chapter in the Planet of the Apes movie series! Consider it a last-gasp addition to Planet of the Apes month if you wish... maybe I should've had POTA month on a month with five Saturdays?
Set in flashback to the turn of the 21st century, and told by the Great Lawgiver, this sequel focuses on the ape leader, Caesar (Roddy McDowall), years after he led the ape revolution in the previous film, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.
In this post-nuclear war society, Caesar tries to cultivate peace between his simian peers and the surviving remains of humanity. Gorilla leader Aldo (Claude Akins), however, wants nothing to do with this; therefore he plots Caesar's overthrow and doom.
Caesar is now married to Lisa, the female ape of the previous film, and they have a son, named Cornelius in honor of Caesar's father.
Caesar regrets having never known his parents, until his human assistant, MacDonald, informs him that through audiotapes, he can hear his parents speak. Caesar learns the archives are in the Forbidden City, once Central City, and is now nuclear ruins. Caesar travels to the Forbidden City and sneaks in to find the record archives.
However, there are others still living in the Forbidden City, many who were former slaveowners of the apes, now under the command of Governor Kolp.
Caesar and his party learns of the future of the world as well as see his parents, but barely have enough time wherein to study the tapes before they must escape or risk capture and death. Kolp considers this clandestine entrance by Caesar an act of espionage while his subordinate Méndez says that they did nothing wrong and should be allowed to go in peace.
Governor Kolp then declares war on Ape City, mustering the humans from the Forbidden City to destroy the ape society once and for all.
Meanwhile, Aldo is furious over the fact that Caesar wants to co-exist peacefully with humans, and plots a military coup in order to get himself installed as the leader of Ape City. Cornelius, while climbing a tree, overhears this, but is spotted by Aldo, who hacks at the branch, causing Cornelius to suffer serious injuries and remain bedridden.
Caesar is devastated by this news, and can only leave Cornelius' side when he learns Kolp is invading Ape City. Aldo breaks into the armory and steals its weapons and corrals all the humans into a pen, claiming that all humans are alike and should be locked away.
Towards the end of the movie, the mutants lose in their effort to conquer Ape City (a reversed plot similar to the failure of the apes to conquer the Forbidden Zone in the second film).
It is then revealed that Cornelius' injury was not due to an accident, but Aldo's malevolence.
An infuriated Caesar engages in a single combat with Aldo, which results in Aldo's death. Caesar then frees the humans, who claim that they will stay in the corral, because freedom is meaningless without respect by the apes.
Caesar then realizes the apes are just as despicable as the slaveowners who once owned them if they treat the humans as second class citizens. The apes and humans then decide to coexist with one another and begin to make a new society.
This still seems to have been the basis for the Caesar model kit
Back in the Forbidden City, Méndez has succeeded Kolp as Governor. A mutant is about to fire the cobalt bomb, when Governor Méndez countermands Kolp's last order, saying that it will result in massive destruction and a Pyrrhic victory, whereas if they form a respect, even religion, based on the bomb, they will always have a sense of purpose in their lives.
8mm box art
Then the elderly ape set forth at the beginning of the film, (the Great Lawgiver, played by John Huston), finishes the narration begun in the prologue which is over 600 years later to a group of young humans and apes. Instead of humanity falling and apes rising to take their place, the two species have continued to coexist.
OK, it's me writing again. Yes, as many have noted before me, this movie had the lowest budget of any of the Apes saga... one suspects that the beancounters at 20th Century figured that, while it was worth it to make a fifth movie, the profits wouldn't be enough to spend much money on to make it!
And it is lacking in many ways to the previous movies... while there are important plot points to be made, in some ways, it almost feels as if they were constrained to place elements in the movie to show that things shown in Beneath (for example) didn't just get pulled out of the writer's figurative lower orifice (to put it politely).
I still enjoy watching the movie, though, even with all its flaws. And I do sometimes wonder what would've happened if this had made enough money that, instead of it being the final chapter, someone decided to go for number six...
Perhaps it's all for the best. After all, the additions to the saga in the live-action and animated TV series cause confusion, and the lack of one person overseeing the entire Apes story (as Lucas has decided to do with all the Star Wars stuff since about, what, 15 years or so ago?), and maintaining a consistency throughout probably had something to do with that.
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