Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) Review

Director: J. Lee Thompson

Genre(s): Action, Science-Fiction

Runtime: 93 minutes (standard version), 96 minutes (extended version)

MPAA Rating: G

IMDb Page

Battle for the Planet of the Apes was the fifth and last installment in the original film series. After a nuclear war, underground, radioactive humans seek one final confrontation with a commune of humans and apes living together in peace. It’s not an abomination, but this is the weakest of the Planet of the Apes movies released in the 1960s and 1970s.

After the dark, chaotic, violent Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972), a more kiddie approach was decided on for the franchise. Indeed, this is perhaps the most family-friendly of the entire series…including the Planet of the Apes pictures that came in the twenty-first century. Despite being the least graphic, this feature still attempts to grapple with some philosophical issues. Whether it’s successful or not, I’ll leave that up to you.

This piece of cinema has a noticeably lower budget than its predecessors. The ten-minute final action scene seems laughable at first, due to its monetary restrictions. However, director J. Lee Thompson makes the best of a dubious situation and the action (with the exception of a clunky shootout in the radioactive city where the bad guys come from) is moderately exciting.

Okay, it barely lives up to its title, as it borders on being called “Minor Skirmish for the Planet of the Apes,” but this is an okay movie. It certainly is kitschy, and not every scene is completely captivating. However, I still watch it every time I view the Planet of the Apes film franchise of the ’60s and ’70s, so I suppose that says something. It’s not torture unless you’re allergic to sci-fi cheesefests.

My rating is 6 outta 10.

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) Review

Director: J. Lee Thompson

Genre(s): Action, Drama, Science-Fiction, Thriller

Runtime: 88 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG (theatrical cut), Not Rated (unrated cut)

IMDb Page

The Planet of the Apes series had been dark before, but, with the fourth entry, it became outright pissed-off. In a fascistic future where all dogs and cats have died due to a plague from outer space, apes are used as pets and slaves by humans. However, one chimpanzee, Caesar (Roddy McDowall), has violent revolt on his mind. This, right here, is the best of the original set of sequels to Planet of the Apes (1968).

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is seething with revolutionary fervor. This is an angry and incendiary film, built around a slave rebellion…and it almost plays out like a start-your-own-state-of-anarchy playbook. It is available in two versions: the standard, PG-rated theatrical cut (that’s still plenty vicious) and a bloodier unrated version with an alternate ending.

The big draw of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is the final action sequence, which lasts about twenty minutes. It is certainly the most sustained scene of mayhem that the franchise has seen yet. It’s exceptional, with humans and apes duking it out at the “Ape Management” building and in the streets of the city that the picture is set in. Its budget wasn’t unlimited, but director J. Lee Thompson (who had previously helmed The Guns of Navarone [1961]) uses his resources very effectively.

Roddy McDowall gives a surprisingly good performance, considering that he’s covered in chimpanzee make-up. It’s a little odd seeing dirty apes, when they’re being used as slaves, serving humans food and touching all of their precious belongings. Get past that, and you’ll be rewarded with a fiery, dramatic, action-oriented sci-fi film with plenty of passion. Forget satire and nuance, let’s get straight to violent revolution!

My rating is 7 outta 10.

Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971) Review

Director: Don Taylor

Genre(s): Adventure, Drama, Science-Fiction, Thriller

Runtime: 98 minutes

MPAA Rating: G

IMDb Page

Somehow, after the ending of Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), the Planet of the Apes series was kept alive, and the third film in the franchise is one of the more unique entries into its canon. Three ape astronauts – Cornelius (Roddy McDowall), Zira (Kim Hunter), and Milo (Sal Mineo) – arrive in the 1970s United States in the salvaged spacecraft used by the humans in the original Planet of the Apes (1968). This one is special, being the least action-oriented of the series.

Escape from the Planet of the Apes actually starts out like a fish-out-of-water comedy. How would these apes react to being slapped down in the middle of the twentieth-century United States? It’s mostly light stuff, but the film’s increasing thriller elements mean this merriment doesn’t last forever. There are no clear heroes or villains here.

As mentioned above, this picture is not very concerned with physical action. It’s more about exploring complicated moral dilemmas, something it does quite well. Despite a minimum of fighting, the film does end on a very grim note. Like the previous entries in the Planet of the Apes series, its G rating from the MPAA should be ignored.

The plot of Escape from the Planet of the Apes is mighty contrived and implausible, but it’s a successful midway point for the 1960s/1970s incarnation of the franchise. No explosions or intricately choreographed fights here, yet its solid pacing and unafraid examinations of important moral matters make it a winner. It’s sometimes regarded as the best of the sequels from the ’60s/’70s series, and, while I don’t agree with that, it’s definitely a feature worth watching.

My rating is 7 outta 10.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) Review

Director: Ted Post

Genre(s): Adventure, Science-Fiction, Thriller

Runtime: 95 minutes

MPAA Rating: G

IMDb Page

When people think of Planet of the Apes (1968) being a cheesy movie, they probably have something along the lines of its first sequel, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, in mind. This is the one where astronaut Brent (James Franciscus) lands on the same ape-controlled planet as the crew from the original film does, and finds himself in the middle of a war between the apes and a race of underground mutants. Yeah, this is the point where things really start to get out of control.

This one feels slightly cheaper-made than the 1968 classic. There’s still lots of stuff going on, but, in comparison to the first one, this one has a bit of made-for-television quality to it at times (though it was released in theaters). The star, James Franciscus, is basically just a Charlton Heston lookalike, and he goes through a similar journey to that of Heston’s in the original. There’s also some “satire” here that is almost comically on-the-nose.

Still, there are a few good action set-pieces to enjoy. The film’s tone is pitch-black, with some nihilistically violent scenes. The movie’s G-rating from the MPAA is truly a joke. It’s a dark picture, almost horror movie-ish at times, but that’s part of its appeal. The budget may be lower, but it’s fun to watch to see how zany and off-the-wall it can get.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes is certainly a piece of sci-fi kitsch, but I like that kind of stuff. It’s not essential viewing if you liked the 1968 original, especially if you have a low tolerance level for cinematic cheese. Despite the film’s bleak nature, the scariest part of the feature is actually its end credits, which credit Victor Bruno’s character as “Fat Man” and Don Pedro Colley’s as “Negro.” Yikes!

My rating is 7 outta 10.

Planet of the Apes (1968) Review

Director: Franklin J. Schaffner

Genre(s): Adventure, Drama, Science-Fiction, Thriller

Runtime: 112 minutes

MPAA Rating: G

IMDb Page

The 1968 sci-fi classic Planet of the Apes boasts one of the best endings in cinema history, but it’d be a mistake to overlook the rest of the picture. Four human astronauts – George Taylor (Charlton Heston), Landon (Robert Gunner), Dodge (Jeff Burton), and Stewart (Dianne Stanley) – land on a mysterious planet ruled by intelligent, talking apes. This compelling story spawned a multi-film franchise and remains the best of the series.

It’s pretty easy to dismiss this movie as a kitschy, cheesy science-fiction relic, with its elaborate ape costumes and wonderfully-hammy acting from Charlton Heston, yet this flick is much more than that. This is a sly, satirical piece of filmmaking, with more of a sense of humor than might be expected. It also benefits from a palpable sense of menace and danger (Planet of the Apes was rated G by the MPAA, but this was clearly before the organization had any clue as to what they were doing).

Jerry Goldsmith’s jolting, avant-garde musical score is a highlight, as are the excellent action scenes. The scenery and sets are top-notch, and the arc for Charlton Heston’s character, a cynical misanthrope, is one of the most memorable of its kind. The special effects haven’t aged as poorly as one might think, and the cinematography is grand.

It’s the movie’s somewhat talky third act that keeps Planet of the Apes from the big leagues, as far as ratings and rankings are concerned. Yes, this part of the picture is necessary for the plot and contains the stunning ending, but most of it is less thrilling than the material that came before it. Overall, this is an intelligent, if occasionally heavy-handed, sci-fi-adventure that needs to be watched before popular culture spoils the final scene for you.

My rating is 8 outta 10.

Superman Returns (2006) Review

Director: Bryan Singer

Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Drama, Romance, Science-Fiction

Runtime: 154 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13

IMDb Page

2006’s Superman Returns picks up just about where the original Superman series of the 1970s and 1980s left off. Yes, we have a different actor playing the Man of Steel this time around (Brandon Routh, instead of Christopher Reeve), but it seems to follow the same continuity of the old franchise. In this adventure, Superman returns to Earth after spending five years looking for the remains of his homeworld of Krypton, only to find that Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) has found a new boyfriend – Richard White (James Marsden) – and that Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) is back to plotting his evil schemes. It’s a bit on the bloated side, but I can still say that I like it.

Superman Returns is in its groove when dealing with the big action set-pieces. Advances in special effects since the 1980s and that sort of thing mean the disaster and rescue sequences are more spectacular than before, with one of the more memorable ones involving an out-of-control airplane that Superman must prevent from crashing into a baseball stadium. Backing up the titular superhero throughout the movie is the returning John Williams musical theme from the ’70s and ’80s, though the main composer for the picture is John Ottman.

The biggest problem facing this action-adventure is its overlong runtime (a little over two-and-a-half hours). The climax goes on for a while, and there’s numerous scenes that the movie still has to show us after the grand finale, which might test your patience. Another minor fault of the flick is that Superman sometimes exhibits some stalker-ish behavior. I mean, the guy can see and hear through walls.

Superman Returns is a better movie than Superman III (1983) and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987), and roughly on par with Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980). A couple of parts go on and on, yet it’d be a mistake to entirely dismiss the feature for this. Unless you’re a Christopher Reeve purist, Superman fans will probably experience enough moments of delight to make it worth watching.

My rating is 7 outta 10.

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) Review

Director: Sidney J. Furie

Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Science-Fiction

Runtime: 93 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG

IMDb Page

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, while no masterpiece, isn’t quite as bad as its reputation would suggest. In the fourth installment in the saga, Superman (Christopher Reeve) sets out to rid the world of nuclear weapons, only to face sunlight-powered supervillain Nuclear Man (Mark Pillow, voiced by Gene Hackman). While not a colossal waste of time, this movie was such a failure that it temporarily killed off the Superman film series.

Let’s start with the good. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace is an endearingly earnest flick, which stands in stark contrast to the meta superhero pictures of modern times. Superman is quite the do-gooder here, and is serious about his, uh, quest to save the Earth from potential nuclear war. Sure, it’s sort of cheesy, but it’s nice to see an action-adventure feature extolling these sincere, strait-laced virtues.

The special effects in this movie aren’t as terrible as many people say they are, but they certainly won’t have you writing home about them. There are a few numbskull moments (wait, since when can Superman create bricks out of thin air…and, wait, how is that character breathing in outer space?), and these seem to be the pieces of content that many reviewers pick up on most. It’s decidedly kiddier than previous entries in the franchise, yet this probably won’t bother the children watching.

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace probably gets a worse rap than it deserves. It benefits from being shorter in runtime than the older films and being tonally consistent. Nit-picker types will have a field day with all of its flaws, but I’ll commend it for not being boring dreck. I can’t really recommend it, though, unless you want to watch the entire Superman series.

My rating is 6 outta 10.