Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is the movie last year’s “Rise Of The Apes” remade, as both movies deal with the apes taking their first steps of taking over the planet. Both movies feature a chimpanzee named Ceasar who rebels against the humans and organizes the apes’ resistance leading to an all out battle between humans and apes. That is where the comparisons end as far as I see it as both movies vary a lot in the take of the subject matter, script, tone and budget. No $90 million for this movie, this was made for under $2 million and it shows.
Of all the Apes movies I’ve watched so far this one is certainly the darkest. Shot at two futuristic looking locations this movie takes place in 1991 and explains to us, rather clunky by having Ricardo Montalban tell all this to his ape Ceasar, the child of Cornelius and Zira from the previous movies, that a disease wiped out all cats and dogs and made apes the next choice to be pets. What happened to Guinea Pigs, Hamsters, Rats, Ferrets, Snakes, Bunnies and a whole lot of other animals that we have domesticated to a certain degree? There are so many problems with monkeys as as pets since when they hit puberty they’re bound to wreck the house at some point.
Not the apes in this movie, as they are all perfectly trained pets who are able to shine shoes, clean up the garbage and wait in restaurants, all for some food. They even have a correctional facility for those apes who just need that little extra training.
So the apes are a metaphor for slaves, as you might have guessed.
In a not so subtle depiction the apes in this movie are treated really bad. If they don’t do their slave job right they’re tossed around, beaten and even subjected to shock therapy. Not that the shock therapy scenes are that “shocking” (pun intended) considering the fact that the machine looks pretty fake and the cuffs seems to be made out of a soft material. When Ceasar witnesses a beating he yells at the police men which was the most stupidest thing he could do since he’s the only talking ape and authorities have been looking for him ever since the events of the previous movie. This situation has him go underground and his caretaker being taken into custody.
On paper this might seem a good story, but when you get such a small budget to realize this on film it all falls apart. Ricardo Montalban isn’t a great performer and the rest of the cast consist of fairly unknown actors. Roddy McDowell is back under the ape mask giving it once again his best. His Ceasar is very different from his Cornelius, a much bitter ape which is not surprising considering the slave status apes have in 1991. It’s a movie about an ape revolution, about apes taking over the world but the budget allows it to show us apes only taking over some sound stages and the square of a university. The whole movie is filled with obvious choices made for the lack of money. Exposition dialogue like the one by Montalban explaining about the fate of pets, shoddy effects like the shock therapy machine, the simple masks for all the apes in the background and the fact that every ape apparently wears shoes…
It’s an interesting concept for a movie, but lacks in execution.