Tier list: Planet of the Apes saga

A look at one of the best science-fiction sagas of the 60’s / 70’s.

The re-reboot

Yes I know I didn’t put the newest trilogy of Planet of the Apes on this. For two reasons:

  • I haven’t seen them
  • I don’t care

When did it start?

I can’t remember when I saw any of those movies for the first time, seems like I’ve always known the first and second. I like seeing every episodes of a movie saga (even the bad ones sometimes) so one day I decided to watch them all.

Here are my short sentiments on each film:

Planet of the Apes (1968) – My Taylor is rich

This movie is just amazing. It takes its time at the beginning (you gotta love a slow burn), with a really mysterious atmosphere. As soon as the apes appear the pace picks up considerably.

Charlton Heston is great as Taylor, he exudes charisma. The exteriors shots are gorgeous. And what about that end scene, it’s probably the best movie ending that I know of.

Yes the ape costumes are a bit dated, I’m probably biased since I’ve known this movie all my life, but somehow I still prefer it to CGI monkeys.

It definitely deserves an entire post on how great it is, I’ll probably do that later on.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) – Super-Nova

This is mostly a remake of the first one (with less money and less talent).
So it could be seen as useless for a good majority of it. The journey of Brent is almost exactly the same as Taylor’s, and it also doesn’t make a lot of sense how he got there or why.

But then, when the story decides to take a turn, it’s fascinating. The ruins of New-York, the mutated humans with weird powers, their bizarre ceremonies, the forced fight between Taylor and Brent, it’s just mesmerizing, so different from the first part of the movie.

And again, what about that crazy ending. I guess it can’t have the same emotional impact as the first one, it’s not as iconic. But man does it take the despair up a notch. Oh you thought the first one was depressing? Guess again.

Hope? nah it’s for suckers. Not sure I’ve seen a bleakest ending. Utter chaos where one by one characters are violently killed. Then Taylor decides to do the biggest FUCK YOU, FUCK EVERYTHING thing possible.

It’s absolutely glorious.

I still hold the movie in high regard, sure half of it is a remake of the first one, but the new ideas it brings in its later parts and ending are definitely worth it.

Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971) – Circus freaks

Not much to say about this one.

Story-wise it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. The good guys chimps found Taylor’s ship and were able to repair it in like 3 days? and the blast from the earth exploding brought them back in time just at the right year?

Yes it does offer some new themes to explore, how humans obviously badly treat the smart chimpanzees. But I was not very interested.

So I can’t honestly tell if it’s bad or if it just doesn’t resonate with me.

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) – Hail Caesar!

This was an improvement. Here we come back to science-fiction and anticipation. I liked the dystopian aspect, the very bleak portrayal of society after a major catastrophe.

It was a nice attempt to bring something new, show the birth of the Planet of the Apes. It plays with the role reversal with the first films where the apes were in control.

Even though it makes no sense, the ape that provokes the revolution is an offspring of future apes that already evolved, so it could not have been the progenitor of the future set in the first two movies. Another thing to add to the long list of cinema’s time-travel-oopsies.

But it’s more enjoyable to watch than the previous one.

Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) – A fight for the ages… or not

Oh they really should have stopped at this point…

I guess it tries to be interesting and giving a message, but this is not very entertaining to watch. Apparently there was a nuclear war, and now there are only a few communities of apes and humans, and they’re warring a bit. And you follow Caesar with his family, tired of fighting etc.

The lack of budget is really felt here. Everything seems so uninspired. It’s very dull, and forgettable.

Planet of the Apes (2001) – Apeshit

Nope nope nope.

This is a disaster. Not only is it a crappy Planet of the Apes movie, it’s also a crappy movie altogether.

Mark Wahlberg is running around, asking himself what the hell he’s doing there, even more that the viewer does. Definitely not among his best work.

The plot distances itself from the original movie. Here no subtext about destroying the world, it’s literally about a space storm that allows you to go through time. The idea itself could be very interesting, the plot twist of all of the situation being caused by Wahlberg’s character stupid actions in the beginning. But this has zero impact, they don’t do anything with it.

I could go on and on about the details of what went wrong:

  • the apes playing basketball
  • the Chanel No 5 girl just here to look pretty like Nova did, but it falls flat
  • the human uprising lol

But there are too many, it’s just a litany of bad choices.

I have to mention the ending. Probably the most stupid I have ever seen. It just contradicts everything the movie told before. It just feels silly and out of place. I know the production had issue with the script being leaked on the internet beforehand. But change it to this?

In the end what is this movie supposed to be talking about? Where are the underlying themes of the first film / the book?

This is a dumb action / sci-fi movie, with sub-par action and weak sci-fi. It feels like an insult to the original movie, as is the case for many recent remakes of popular movies, I’ll surely write an article later on about that awful trend.

I always had a complicated relationship with Tim Burton. I recognize his talent for making visually unique and creepy movies. I only like a few of his earlier films, but I know at least he always had some kind of vision (not so much lately apparently…). But here? No way to tell he made this at all.

The end product is awful. It’s bad AND infuriating.

Take you stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape!

In conclusion, as with many franchises it could have stopped at the first one and it would have been fine. Planet of the Apes is so vastly superior in every way, those sequels had a tough time following it, even though they did manage to bring some interesting ideas and good moments.

The reboot was a horrible mistake.

I’m not so sure about the point of the re-reboot trilogy. From the looks of it it largely deals with the same themes as the fourth and fifth entries. So I have no real interest in seeing them. Maybe it’s my loss, but whatever.

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