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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Apocalypse Apes Redux, May 23, 2006
This review is from: Battle for the Planet of the Apes (DVD)
Rarely does the restoration of deleted scenes added back into a film work to its benefit. The Extended Edition of Battle for the Planet of the Apes (available previously only as a Japanese laserdisc) is one of those rare exceptions. The fifth and final chapter in the Apes theatrical series is generally regarded as its weakest link. It had the lowest budget of all of the films in the series and it painfully shows and looks more like it's a made-for-TV movie. In fact, it feels almost like a pilot for the Planet of the Apes Television Series.

The film begins in the year 2670 and is bookended with John Houston as the revered ape Lawgiver reading from the sacred scrolls like a bedtime storyteller, "In the beginning, God created beast and man so that they could live in harmony and share dominion over this world..." From here the story is told in flashback and the viewer is left scratching their heads by the befuddling logic. Events not clearly explained are left to the viewer to make assumptions or draw conclusions about the contradictory order of events. It must be assumed that a nuclear war had devasted the Earth immediately after the ape uprising in Conquest and somehow only a decade afterward the ape society had unbelievably evolved their verbal powers of speech and intelligence. These facts are inconsistent with Cornelius' explanation of the apes' evolution in Escape in which he explains that the plague that destroyed all cats and dogs occurred some 200 years later than it did in Conquest and that Aldo was the first ape to utter human speech when he said the word "No" which was spoken by Lisa in Conquest, and that Aldo led the revolt against the humans which was led by Caesar. We can only conclude that the incongruent events in Conquest and Battle are the events of an alternate timeline forged by the creation of the temporal paradox from Cornelius and Zira's arrival in Escape. The apes also adorn costumes similar to the fashions of the ape society from the first film which had evolved over several thousand years but again this is only a decade after their revolt against the humans (one explanation could be that since this story is told as a flashback to ape and human children we are seeing it as depicted by their imaginations as a point of reference). Caesar has a son named Cornelius which might initially confuse the uninitiated viewer into mistaking this to be the young Cornelius from the first film which lived several thousand years into the future until it is made obviously clear late in the film that it is not the same Cornelius (I actually spent a better part of the film pondering how Caesar could paradoxically be both the son and the father of Cornelius). Also, MacDonald in this film is not the same MacDonald who was the Governor's Adjutant in Conquest but rather his brother which is confusing since Caesar appeared to have found a human sympathizer and ally in the MacDonald from Conquest and the only reasonable explanation for the deliberate change of character is that MacDonald is played by a different actor this time, but if you aren't paying close attention, you are likely to miss that inference. Ape City is located in a very lush and hospitable forest area within miles of the inhospitable desert wasteland of the annihilated Forbidden City. Automobiles such as jeeps and school buses still work somehow and were not rendered inopperable by the EMP of the atomic detonation. Radioactive half-life apparently only affects the surviving humans living within the irradiated remains of the Forbidden City (again, this takes place a mere decade after the war) and the apes can somehow sustain bombardments of high levels of radioactive fallout for a few hours while they search its archives for a videotape of Cornelius and Zira which also amazingly happened to not be vaporized or magnetically degaussed by the atomic blast. The mutated humans all wear skull caps for the purpose of (take your pick): A.) protecting their craniums from high radiation levels B.) to hide the fact that their hair has completely fallen out due to radioactive fallout C.) to enhance telepathic reception of their now-suddenly mutated telekinetic minds or D.) All of the above.

The newly restored scenes with the human mutants and the Alpha-Omega bomb at least help to make some sense of the rather weak narrative and gaps of logic and provide some continuity to the rest of the series. In the first scene, Governor Kolp unveils the Alpha-Omega bomb and instructs his assistant Alma to use it to annihilate Ape City should he not return from battle which is exactly what happens in the final scene where we see Mendez and Alma playing a game of checkers when Sargeant York returns and declares the defeat of their army and waves his arms in the air signalling an explosion just before he collapses. Alma says "Then I know what I must do." Mendez says "But wait for Kolp's signal," Alma's response is "I have just received it." Mendez, implores her not to carry out Kolp's original instructions making the arguement that its destructive power should be protected and even venerated and that they should become its guardians because it was one of their ancestors that made them what they are. This scene is significant because it shows the mutants beginning to hone their developing telepathic powers and it establishes the fundamental doctrine of their quasi-religious sect that will worship the Alpha-Omega bomb in future generations. It almost feels more like a direct prequel to Beneath now. Why this subplot was excised is almost as baffling as the film's logic but one reason perhaps is the fact that the film ended with a more optimistic outlook suggesting that the timeline of events were changed when Caesar united the apes and the humans and that the crisis of Beneath may have been averted but it is left open for the audience to decide from the ambiguous tear of the weeping statue of Caesar suggesting that perhaps the fateful events of the future cannot be avoided after all.

Battle is definitely the worst of the five apes films but compared to most low-budget sci-fi shlock I've seen, it's really not as bad as it's made out to be, but judged against the superior standard set precedent by the first film it is a quite a disappointment. In addition to the restored scenes, there are few highlights that make the film worth at least a viewing if you have enjoyed watching the other films in this series at all. Of particular interest are the sets of the melted down post-apocalyptic Forbidden City that are just visually interesting to look at, even if the obvious matte paintings were composited into the background. It gives the film a future-coda feel in a way that evokes images of James Cameron's The Terminator but pre-dates it over a decade. If nothing else, Battle (and the rest of the Apes saga) was at least influential in inspiring other science fiction films in the genre and was the template for subsequent franchises and was more than influential to George Lucas and his Star Wars mega-merchandising empire that would follow only a few years later and the Planet of the Apes series would forever be buried under its apocalypse and reside in the realm of Saturday afternoon and late-night television broadcasts.
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