Borrowing, again, the plot description from the Wikipedia entry...
The film story begins at the conclusion of Planet of the Apes, with the discussion between Dr. Zaius and Taylor about mankind and the quotation from the apes' sacred scrolls read by Cornelius (Roddy McDowall):
“ Beware the beast, man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone among God's primates, he kills for sport or lust or greed. Yea, he will murder his brother, to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home, and yours. Shun him, for he is the harbinger of death. ”
The opening credits are shown with Taylor and Nova riding through the desert of the "Forbidden Zone".
Elsewhere in the Forbidden Zone is a severely damaged spacecraft which has crash-landed. It contains two survivors: an astronaut named Brent (James Franciscus) and his skipper, though the skipper succumbs to his injuries and dies soon after. Brent believes it is 3955 AD. After burying his skipper, Brent is approached by Nova, who is on horseback and wearing Taylor's metal I.D. tag. Hoping that Taylor may still be alive, Brent mounts the horse behind her and they ride out of the desert into the greener, cultivated area outside of Ape City.
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They sneak to an amphitheater filled with cheering apes. Addressing the crowd is General Ursus (James Gregory), leader of the Ape Army, who is calling for the total extermination of all humans. The orangutans and chimpanzees in the crowd are silent, not agreeing with the statement. Ursus wants the Apes to invade the Forbidden Zone, conquer it, and use it as a potential food source.
After the rally, Dr. Zaius and General Ursus discuss the impending invasion, with Dr. Zaius conveying his misgivings about fighting an unknown and potentially dangerous enemy. Ursus says, “We invade or we starve. It’s as simple as that.”
While leaving the amphitheater, Brent is wounded by a patrolling gorilla trooper. Nova takes him to the home of Cornelius and Zira, who explain the situation to Brent and treat his wound. Dr. Zaius arrives, so Brent and Nova hide and overhear how Zaius protected Cornelius and Zira from charges of heresy and treason months before, but now scolds Zira for her behavior during the meeting, wherein she remained seated when everyone else stood in applause. He informs them that he will be joining Ursus on the invasion of the Forbidden Zone. While he is away, he asks for reassurances that they will stay out of trouble.
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Brent and Nova quickly leave Ape City, but are immediately captured by a gorilla patrol. They are taken back to Ape City, passing squads of gorilla soldiers going through military exercises using humans for targets. At the compound, they are spotted by Zira, who feigns scientific interest to save them. However, Ursus has authority over them. As they are loaded back into the wagon, Zira pretends to lock the door but leaves it unlocked, enabling them to escape.
After escaping, Brent and Nova hide in an unnatural-looking cave which Brent soon recognizes was formerly Queensboro Plaza station. Overwrought, he wonders aloud what could have happened to destroy the world he knew. Brent and Nova go deeper into the tunnels, eventually following a humming sound. Brent hears voices that order him to kill Nova, resisting them, he enters the remains of St. Patrick's Cathedral, and finds a person inside, kneeling before the high altar. However, the object of worship fills him with horror - an intact nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile.
In the ruins of Grand Central Terminal, the city rulers barrage Brent with questions asked telepathically, mentally torturing him when he is evasive. When it is apparent that he can not handle their telepathic communication, their leader instructs them to use verbal questioning. When they torture Nova, Brent confirms their worst fears; “The Apes are marching on your city!” Other than their “Divine Bomb”, the mutants’ only defenses are telepathic illusions.
In the Forbidden Zone, the ape army comes upon the horrible sight of their gorilla scouts crucified on inverted crosses, engulfed in flames. Ursus is outraged and then frightened when a monolithic statue of their Lawgiver appears over them and begins to bleed. Instead of instilling fear, Zaius is incensed at the sight but recognizes it as an illusion, and charges through it, confirming its falsehood. Ursus orders the army to continue their advance.
With the failure of their illusion to dissuade the apes, the mutants have no choice but to prepare to detonate the “Divine Bomb.” The mutants hold a worship service in the cathedral, Brent and Nova are given robes to wear and attend. The congregation sings a corrupted version of the Anglican hymn “All Things Bright and Beautiful”, praising “the Bomb Almighty,” and in unison remove masks which have concealed their true appearance. Exposed to centuries of radioactive fallout, the mutants are skinless and horribly scarred.
Afterward, Brent is separated from Nova and put in a jail cell with Taylor, an explanation from the mutant explains their practice of getting their enemies to kill each other. Under his telepathic control, Taylor and Brent fight each other.
Hearing the sound of the fighting, Nova escapes her guard and runs to the cell. She cries out “Tay-lor!” The sound of her voice breaks the mutant’s concentration, freeing Brent and Taylor from his control and they kill him. At this time, the apes have entered the tunnels of the city, and one manages to kill Nova.
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Using a battering ram, the apes force their way into St. Patrick’s Cathedral to be confronted by Méndez, the leader of the mutants. The missile rises into launch position, and Taylor and Brent arrive just in time to see Méndez gunned down by the gorillas before he can fire it. The gorillas start to pull down the missile with ropes.
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Brent had described the missile to Taylor in the cell which, from the Alpha and Omega markings, Taylor recognized as the "doomsday bomb"; if it is launched, it will destroy the entire planet. Brent and Taylor attempt to stop Ursus from accidentally setting off the weapon, but Taylor is shot. Seeing this, Brent goes into a rage. Coming out into the open, he starts killing gorillas, beginning with Ursus himself.
As this is going on, Zaius confronts Taylor. The mortally wounded man pleads with Zaius for help. Zaius contemptuously refuses: "You ask me to help you?! Man is evil, capable of nothing but destruction!" With this remark, Brent's rifle empties and the gorillas kill him in a barrage of gunfire. With his last words, "You bloody bastard...", Taylor dies, and his outstretched hand falls on the control switch that triggers the bomb, destroying the Earth itself and kiling all life, including both humans and apes, living on it. The film ends with a narration (spoken by veteran voice actor Paul Frees):
“ In one of the countless billions of galaxies in the universe, lies a medium-sized star, and one of its satellites, a green and insignificant planet, is now dead.
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So... my thoughts on this movie. They certainly took things in a different direction from the first installment, even if it starts out with a similar starting plot (astronaut landing from the past, sole survivor of his crew), but move on quickly.
I'm guessing the only reason they even did this was because Charlton Heston didn't want to spend that much time on the set for this installment... the script was worked out to give him maybe a week or two on set at the most! He also doesn't spend much time in a loincloth, either.
I'm sure that many people, upon seeing this installment in the theatres, figured that was it, no more sequels to follow! And it was a ballsy move, blowing up the planet like that! But obviously, they figured something out!
The main bit of satire in this movie took the form of the teenage apes protesting the war (as seen in the video clip above), although there's a lot of poking at religious beliefs, too, especially once we're introduced to the mutants!
This movie saw pretty much all the main actors returning... although Roddy McDowall was missing as Cornelius this time, his role being assumed by David Watson. Roddy would return as Cornelius for the remaining movies, as well as the TV series.
As with all the movies, this is one I definitely enjoy... in many ways, it's the creepiest of the series.... and, too, in some ways it's the most out of place, with the mutants and their mental abilities. Thankfully, there were no more special powers evident in the remaining movies... just humans vs. apes, and that's the way it should be! (oh, sure, there were mutants in "Battle," but they didn't have powers, did they?).
Next week, the Apes madness continues on "Movie of the Week" with "Escape from the Planet of the Apes," which requires a little bit of suspension of disbelief to make the main plot device work, but since it let the series continue, I can't be too picky!
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