Friday, June 27, 2014

Naptown Nerd Goes Ape: Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes (1972)

Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes
Director: J. Lee Thompson
Starring: Roddy McDowall, Ricardo Montalbon, Natalie Trundy, Don Murray
Rated: PG...okay so finally maybe they're getting it a bit here, but the end is still a bloodbath!


You guys remember back in 1991 when this happened?  Man what crazy times those were.  We've come a long way and got a lot less ape since.  Yeah, so this movie takes place in 1991.  Its a fictional 1991 and just take it as "18 years into the future" (Escape took place in '73 despite coming out in '71).  I can't wait for all the groaner "Back To The Future Part II" was wrong comparisons we're going to be hearing next year (and they've already started).  Before it happens, let me tell you folks, its a tired joke, people have already been making it for some time.  Don't feed the Buzzfeed please, they're going to go ballistic with it, you just kinda know it.
Back to Conquest!  This film adds something the previous film lacked, which is a little bit more of a vision and style.  There's some really cool architecture, sets and costuming choices in the film.  It very much reminds me of stuff that would come later like Logan's Run, The Apple, Woody Allen's Sleeper and definitely you can see this type of stylish taste having some sort of impact (inadvertant likely) on something as modern as The Hunger Games series.  Its futuristic looking and feeling without going overboard on being so.  I'm sure the constrained budget had something to do with that.  Plus the money probably went to the crazy amount of Apes we have in the film.
Growing up, this was my favorite sequel in the series.  I latched right onto the racial social commentary in it, even at an early age (which is surprising) and love the dark turn the 3rd act takes.  I was actually surprised in the outcome.  I figured there'd be a little hell and Caesar would wind up making some noise but failing.  The previous films had led me to thinking that the people I was rooting for woudl eventually lose out in the end.  But, no, Apes triumph.  I suppose I was supposed to be getting behind the humans, who were treating apes and their own kind so awfully?  I dunno. And if you have an opportunity to see the Unrated cut (yes, there is one) of this film, the ending is even more dark.
This film has a sort of Sci-Fi weirdness to it that always attracted me to the genre back in the day.  Maybe it comes from being low budget or the 60s/70s style and aesthetic of the time, but I really get into that sort of stuff.  Those sort of police-state kind of futuristic outfitting renders a certain sense of blank uncertainty that is simple yet hautning.  And the city itself looks neat, but looking closer it has a sort of empty and hollow feeling that makes it sort of frightening as well.  If I'm just jibber jabbering here, I apologize, but if you get what I mean, then hey, "you iz right".
Originally this was planned to actually be the final film.  The writer wanted things to feel cyclical as if this was a big circle.  That this would lead to the Planet of the Apes which would lead back around to this and keep going and going.  That everything always is and always was.  Sort of like the Kyle Reese conundrum in Terminator.  Its a possible theory, but hurts the brain because we have a hard time of grasping a concept that doesn't start at Point A and go to Point B and be finite.  They really wanted to end this series on humanities darkest hour and the turn that would lead to the world we discover in the first film.
Caesar's revolt might be one of the more impactful things I ever saw in my young filmwatching days.  I'm not sure I'd seen anything like it before.  It was really eye opening and quite astonishing to see the apes just turn on all the humans and start killing in a really violent takeover.  And to see our main character get so nasty at the end about it was stunning as well.  The final act was likely one of the darkest things I had ever seen in films as a young lad.  And its always stuck with me.  It made an impression on me, so maybe that's why I hold it up so high.
Of course, this was the film that served as the basis for Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes.  That film is not a remake at all, but a true sense of being a reboot.  Where they just take the concept of the film and do their own thing with it.  But, we'll cross that avenue just a couple films from now when we discuss that movie.  But it should be noted at this point that this series has had the 1st and 4th films remade which is pretty unique in terms of franchises.
As I said before, I'm a big fan of this film.  When it was younger it spun me for a loop and took my by complete surprise.  This paired with Escape made for two incredibly unique movies.  Neither of them were alike, neither of them were retreads of the first movie.  These 3 films of the series were all quite different, but felt so much a part of one another.  Conquest did what the series does best, in that it picks some aspects of societal issues of the time and disguises them in a compelling Ape tail, while managing to be quite a ferocious and entertaining film on just its own popcorn standards.

NEXT TIME:  Ape shall not kill ape.

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