From 1972, this is the fourth instalment in the Planet of the Apes series – not to be confused with South Thanet of the Apes, a documentary about UKIP supporters.
By 1991, all the cats and dogs have been wiped out by a space plague (just go with it), so the humans take apes as pets instead. And because simians can do things like opening bottles (try giving a cat a corkscrew and see where that gets you), they soon become our slaves – until Caesar (the welcome return of Roddy McDowall), the son of super-intelligent apes Zira and Cornelius, starts a revolution, making him the John Connor of chimpanzees.
This movie (of which Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a sort of re-imagining) is easily the best of the original Apes movies so far, boasting evolved production and involved sci-fi. It deals with slavery, torture and resistance, culminating in a particularly impressive climactic exchange between Caesar and a black human named MacDonald (Hari Rhodes).
The problem is that we know exactly what’s going to happen, because it’s spelled out in the original film and in every subsequent scene (except for Beneath – that was just confusing). Yet it’s a vast improvement on its non-sensical and talky predecessor, thanks to its strong plotting, tension and direction – all absent from the previous movies.
But it continues the nihilistic streak that runs through the franchise, depicting the primal fears of 1970s American society confronting social change, and a bleak cycle of oppression by humankind (and then apes). The film goes to great pains to show the apes’ victimisation and oppression by the humans, thus ensuring we understand Caesar’s journey to becoming a violent revolutionary leader.
One is reminded of Fight Club, which references Cornelius, “Space Monkeys” and echoes the inevitable dissent of those enslaved by society – “We cook your meals, we haul your trash, we connect your calls, we drive your ambulances, we guard you while you sleep. Do not fuck with us.” This is a political, uncompromising and confrontational picture about the way we treat each other. And Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is pretty good too.