Friday, July 6, 2012

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) (Movie Review)

      Next is the 1970 sequel titled “Beneath the Planet of the Apes”. This is one of those sequels that dose an okay job continuing the story of the original film at first but then the story takes such an odd turn that it might as well be another movie entirely. It’s not the absolute worst in the series but it’s certainly the strangest and definitely one of the lesser installments. 

     The movie begins where the first film left off, with Taylor and his mute girl friend riding off into the unknown desert of the ape planet. Shortly after discovering the Statue of Liberty in ruins, Taylor disappears into thin air, leaving his girl friend Nova alone. Soon she runs into another astronaut named Brent, who’s also stranded on the planet after his space ship crashed. Then after getting captured by the apes again, the two chimpanzees from the first movie, (Zira and Cornelius) help them escape. Their chased back into the forbidden zone of the planet and discover an underground world, where a group of mutated humans with psychic powers are worshiping a “Dooms Day Bomb” like it’s God. Meanwhile, Dr. Zaius (the evil orangutan from the first film) has joined forces with a Gorilla that’s obsessed with killing off all humans. So they march an army into the forbidden zone in an attempt to wipe out all humanity.

    The problems with this film are obvious, the first half of this movie is literally a mini remake of the first movie. Seriously, it’s all the same stuff that we saw in the last film, the astronaut captured by apes, escaping with the aid of the same two chimpanzees and venturing out into the forbidden zone is all lather, rinse and repeat. Except this time, it’s far sillier, with hammier performances, sillier scenes like this moment with apes hanging out in a sweat shop and less incite on our culture. There’s moments when the film tries to ask some thought provoking questions, but there too short and it really doesn’t matter because this film goes right back into the realm of campy. It’s also annoying that while many of the same characters from the first movie are back, we still don’t see that much of them. Charlton Heston makes barley more than a cameo in his role as Taylor and the two chimpanzees have little to nothing to do with regards to the plot. Even the villain from the first film gets a back seat to this evil Gorilla general who’s just a little too hammy and over the top.

      But the really big problems start in the middle half of the movie, when our two main characters discover the underground world. At first, it’s kind of cool, we see some awesome set pieces and it has this mysterious overtone. But once we meet the mutated humans with psychic powers, things tack a turn for the worst. These people are so odd and there’s nothing fully explained about them, how did they get ESP, how long have they been around, what are their goals? None of that’s explained, what’s worse is that where stuck down here for the rest of the movie, looking at nothing by white walls, white objects and where constantly subjected to all kinds of annoying sounds, like loud humming and beeping sounds that really get on your nerves.  The movie even forces us to watch these people hold a mass for their “Dooms Day Bomb”, I’m not kidding, we see their full, boring mass for a friggin atom bomb. It’s almost like the writers forgot that this is a “Planet of the Apes” movie and so does the audience for that matter. We start to see less of the apes and more of these strange people that honestly belong in another series all together.

    The film is also full of really strange moments, like this one scene when the apes have a vision a statue of their ape God set to flames and bleeding. Yes, a statue of an ape God is bleeding and this is only one of several odd moments in the film. The ending is also a disappointment, not because it’s bad exactly, it just leaves you feeling very empty, like the whole movie was worthless. Basically the apes lay siege to the underground world, kill off all the lead characters and the bomb goes off, destroying the entire planet. What was the point of that movie, it moves the story forward a little but then it just pulls the plug on itself. We don’t learn more about the characters, we don’t learn that much more about the planet and when we do it just raises more questions.

     All in all, I don’t hate this movie and it honestly didn’t hurt me to watch it but it’s not something that I care to see again. If you’re a hard core “Planet of the Apes” fan and want to see every movie, then this film won’t bother you too much. If you’d rather just watch a good movie, then stick with the original or one of the new reboots. 

I give “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” 2 stars out of 5. 

To Be Continued ...                  

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