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What a strange franchise.

Really, when you think about it, that was five movies about talking apes they made back in the day, along with a TV series, of course, and now two more films!

After going beneath the Planet Of The Apes, escaping it, conquering it, now, finally, we get to see the epic Battle For The Planet Of The Apes and, after such a massive build up, it's sure to be something special and unforgettable.

Or a dud, whatever.

As it turns out, the Apes franchise ended with more of a whimper than an all-out "battle". With the ever growing plot-holes added on between each movie from the first sequel onwards, reaching near-incomprehensible levels, the logic of this whole story finally comes crumbling down in a messy effort featuring yet another fine performance by Roddy McDowall and a couple of promising ideas but mostly unremarkable developments. For one thing, it's weird that Caesar is still alive and that the world crumbled this easily off-camera. Besides, shouldn't we have actually seen THAT battle instead of the mini conflict we're offered here between the apes and some silly-looking humans not unlike those ghoulish monks from Beneath but nowhere near as fun? The poster above is a hilarious lie, by the way: none of that s*** happens. The core drama at the heart of the film is an interesting one and it could have been (and almost is) really powerful: Caesar's son is killed by an ape, thereby his golden rule "Ape Does Not Kill Ape" is broken and he is forced to rethink his policy completely. This is something which Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes prioritises and puts across really well.

Unfortunately, in Battle, everyone acts dumber than a pile of bricks from start to finish. The bad humans want to kill the apes because they showed up uninvited to their defunct library once and they think that doing that will help them claim the planet back, the gorillas think that killing their leader's son is a great idea and that they'll never be suspected despite hacking down the tree branch the kid was standing on with a sword, the weapons are guarded by one old orangutan in a room with a shoddily put together wooden door, the good humans are cattle at best and that kid ape can't jump from tree to tree despite being, um... a chimp. No-one seems to know what's going on anywhere and neither do we, which makes it really hard to connect to the plot or its characters and, by the time the titular battle happens, it just feels irrelevant, even tedious. It doesn't help that it all looks pretty cheap and unimpressive. At least Conquest had a huge ape cast and the end fight was pretty cool and intense both visually and dramatically. Battle is a missed opportunity and even an aped John Huston can't save the film from being little more than a misjudged finale to an otherwise surprisingly decent franchise.

If you've seen all the other Planet Of The Apes movies, you might as well sit through this one. It's not very good but the Caesar arc is solid enough, as is McDowall's performance and the campiness of the human villains is sort of entertaining. That said, with the superior Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes out in cinemas now, you might just want to skip Battle and see it done right on the big screen.

The weakest of the originals.


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