Saturday, 24 December 2011

Pre-Christmas Movie Marathon: Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)

 The apes revolt in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes! 20 years since the events of Escape, a plague has wiped out all cats and dogs. Needing new pets, the humans have switched to apes because of their excellent intelligence and ease by which they can be domesticated.  Humans being humans just couldn't leave them as cuddly pets and instead over time, the apes have become slaves to the human race. In a futuristic and dystopian looking compound where everyone wears black, the apes are trained to perform various menial tasks under great amounts of abuse and poor conditions before being auctioned off.  Milo played by Roddy McDowall has grown up and is now known as Caeser. He is shocked at this mistreatment of apes and later he too is captured and sold as a slave.

 The sheer amount of people dressed in ape costumes starts to become a bit too much in Conquest. It looks absurd. They don't even look like chimpanzee's! I'm surely not expected to believe chimps have anthropomorphised so much in just 20 years? I suppose it's not the films fault - as we'll see with Battle for the Planet of the Apes the series had struggle on with reduced budgets after every film. It's amazing it even got this far. 

For all its costume related problems - I still like really Conquest.  It may even be the best of the sequels. Mcdowall gives his strongest performance since Planet and the sleek futuristic set really works - though I would like to of seen more of the apes in general society -the final uprising feels suitably dramatic as the humans desperately try to cling to power within the compound. The film had to be cut numerous times because of the violence of the ending. Censors thought it would be too much for an audiences to handle.

The film's biggest theme is slavery and the civil rights movement. Caeser rouses with a dramatic speech before the apes deliver the final blow against their overthrown masters - the film poses its final question. What rights do slaves have over their captors? If set free are they morally justified in enslaving their previous masters? Caeser says, yes - they do have that right.  Where before he was a noble liberator, he now stands alone as leader of the Apes. Suddenly his character and policy's pose far more difficult questions. It's an interesting dilemma and in Battle for the Planets of the Apes, the uneasy post-liberation relationship of Apes and Humans, Slaves and Masters is further explored...