Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Battle for the Planet of the Apes



A rinky-dink conclusion to the classic Apes saga that does (charitably) deliver to its viewers a World War IV fought with primitive weaponry, a post-nuclear proposal famously attributed to Albert Einstein. Battle for the Planet of the Apes sees the return of Roddy McDowall's Caesar, by now the uneasy monarch of a mixed populace of scrappy apes and their beleaguered human slaves. An apocalyptic war has happened offscreen, leaving man's cities shattered. All that remains now is treacly rubble riddled with outposts housing sick and dying mutants. These scabby humans, zapped with fatal radiation doses, dwell in subterranean sewers, their holdings photographed with the same canted conspiracy as the criminal lairs seen in ABC's Batman television series. 

The ape society depicted here is a cross between a Palaeolithic hunter-gatherer culture and a hippy commune, not much more expansive than a couple of treehouses and a well-stocked armoury. Like Caesar - the offspring of two time-travelling apes from the future that Charlton Heston's Taylor trespassed into - all the film's gorillas, orangutans and chimpanzees can now talk and reason to the extent that they now preside over a human caste system. Although a few notables retain the faculties to speak as semi-equals, the majority of mankind's survivors seem to be slowly regressing to the mute mechanism seen in the original Planet of the Apes. There's very little explanation for any of these evolutionary developments either, other than a desire to cater to the closed temporal loop proposed by earlier entries. Caesar's people also conduct themselves with a smug self-satisfaction, perhaps a reasonable position to take when dealing with the few remaining examples of the race that set the world on fire. 

Although his position as top dog is in jeopardy, thanks to a charismatic gorilla named Aldo, Caesar willingly takes himself off to visit the corpse of the city he overthrew in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, searching its sunken vaults for some fragment of his murdered parents. This trespass is discovered by the squatting troglodytes who remain in the ruins; a sick and dying people, obsessed with endless military prep. Caesar and his companions are followed back to their settlement by these irradiated humans, a force of desiccated sappers piled into jeeps and a repurposed school bus. As this wave of (comparative) technology crashes in the apes' hastily assembled barricade, there's a brief hint of the Blitzkrieg rolling into Soviet Ukraine - on a television pilot budget - before Caesar's apes quickly turn the tables. As a finale for the Apes movies, Battle is keen to avoid the pessimistic conclusions that made the film series' name, opting instead for a bittersweet wraparound in which John Huston's made-up Lawgiver bleats on to an audience of squabbling ape and human children. 

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