Thursday, December 23, 2010
Capsule Review - Conquest of the Planet of the Apes
December 23, 2010
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes – US, 1972
The fourth film in the Planet of the Apes series takes place twenty years after Escape from the Planet of the Apes, and much of what Zira and Cornelias said would happen has happened. Cats and dogs are extinct, wiped out ironically by a disease the two chimpanzees inadvertently brought with them from the future, and humans have begun forcibly using apes as servants. To “train” them, the apes are frightened, threatened, and tortured. In addition, they are “educated” to obey simple commands such as no and do. After witnessing numerous acts of cruelty towards apes, Caesar (Roddy McDowall), Zita and Cornelias’s child formerly known as Milo, has seen enough, and he decides to lead the apes in revolt.
The film is an interesting, yet unsettling one. It’s possible to empathize with Caesar in the first half of the film, but it is much more difficult to do this by the end, for contrary to what Zira and Cornelias said about chimpanzees being pacifists, Caesar is now the persecutor, and as he explains, the masters are now the servants. The film starts out being plot-driven and then gets slightly bogged down by a long, drawn out, violent battle inspired by the Watts Riots in 1965. It’s not a particular pleasant thing to witness. The film tries to score points by adding a late message about mankind hating apes because they represent man’s darker side, but the message falls slightly flat. When one embraces violence, regardless of the circumstances, one runs the risk of losing popular support. Perhaps this is what was intended. However, if neither side is to be cheered, just how is an audience supposed to respond at the end of a battle when one side has its arms raised in victory? After all, we know from the first film the atrocities that follow. Ricardo Montalban returns as Armando, and Don Murray gives a good performance as Governor Breck, a man who has overcompensated for his fears by creating the very conditions for the rebellion he sought to prevent from occurring. Hari Rhodes is also good playing MacDonald, an aide to the governor who is sympathetic to the apes. (on DVD)