Shapstik’s Top 5 Planet of the Apes Movies

If you have seen the trailer for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes already, then you will most likely be as excited as I am. Released in the summer of 2014, it looks just as good as the tremendous Rise of the Planet of the Apes and boasts Gary Oldman at the forefront, one of my favourite actors of all time. It also looks like it just might tread some new ground in the way its predecessor did, which is exciting news for fans of the series.

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Although in many ways a remake of Battle of the Planet of the Apes , in the same way that Rise was a remake of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (albeit with a much more plausible idea behind the origin of intelligent ape) , Dawn will be set a decade after the previous film. At the conclusion of Rise , we witnessed the release of a humanity-threatening virus, which came at the same time as the establishment and artificial evolution of an intelligent ape community in the woods. This simultaneous battle between disease and ape, makes a much more believable battleground for the inevitable loss of humanity, under the yoke of Caesar (pictured above), than the ridiculously sudden shift seen in the original films. This opens up many possibilities for Dawn , and perhaps the story will take another twist and peel itself away from the original plot. Although for some reason, I can imagine the Statue of Liberty symbolically poking out of the sand by the end of the film, or at least the next one.

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I have just finished re-watching the entirety of the Apes films, and felt moved to do do a Top 5 of my favourites to wet the appetite and perhaps even inspire the reader to jump onto Amazon and pick themselves up the original box set for a measly three pounds. When, or if, you make it to the end, you will realize that credit must be given to the series for its patience and ambition to go the full paradoxical circle, even with some woolly science squeezed in along the way. But because of this previous loop, it was always going to be those leaky plot holes that first needed plugging when making the next-gen instalments. With this in mind, I think 2001′s remake of the original film (above) made the mistake of attempting to fix something that was not broken, and made a bit of a hash of it in the process. Whereas Rise did the right thing by completely rethinking the entire origin timeline, and came out smelling mostly of roses.

I nearly did a Best and Worst post on the movies, but as there are only seven films, most of which I really enjoyed, it made the task much more suited to a Top 5. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the countdown, and let me know if you think I have misplaced my apes!

The two movies that got away:

7: 2001′s remake Planet of the Apes did not get a look in, primarily because of its soulless representation of the original narrative. Tim Roth is undoubtedly the highlight as Thade, but it is a film that misses the point and avoids asking any really interesting questions, and Burton spends too much time on the visual aesthetics of a fairly undramatic affair.

6: 1973′s Battle of the Planet of the Apes  ,although watchable, tries to be all its predecessors at once and seems to believe it is therefore better than it is. It limps along without ever getting exciting, and the dialogue is so outrageously predictable and boring it becomes as painful as watching a school play.

5: Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)

IMDB Rating: 6.2

Directed by Don Taylor / Starring Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter and Bradford Dillman

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Continuing on from the atomic destruction of earth at the end of Beneath Escape tells the story of the three apes that escaped their Earth on the ship left behind by Heston and company in the original film. This begins the time paradox so essential to the series, and it is interesting to see the apes reversing the role portrayed by Heston, as the outsider in an alternate time. There is much to enjoy in the film, and the typical knee jerk reaction of the humans to this potential threat, although predictable, is essentially intrinsic to the tale. Yes, the film lacks the science fiction of others in the series (there is even a shopping montage featuring the female ape, give me strength), but Taylor directs the mix of action and humour very smoothly and McDowell does the stalwart job he always does. Not so much a memorable classic, and more a solid entry in the franchise.

4: Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)

IMDB Rating: 6.0

Directed by J Lee Thompson / Starring Roddy McDowall, Don Murray and Ricardo Montalban

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Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is for me the most underrated of the series. Although the action set-pieces are slightly repetitive and predictable, Thompson shows a truly commendable dedication to the task at hand. I absolutely love the hyperbolic stylisation of the different apes, which harks back to the original film in an important nod that links the series together. The oppression allegories that circumscribe the film mixes with the feeling of an underlying threat, one more heavily felt through the memorably dystopian and Orwellian setting. Roddy McDowell was also given possibly his most challenging role by Thompson, and rises to the challenge of changing earth’s entire future through his passion and hatred fuelled by the loss of his spiritual father.

3: Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

IMDB Rating: 6.1

Directed by Ted Post / Starring James Franciscus, Kim Hunter and Maurice Evans

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Although not a touch on the original film, Beneath continues on in the same methodically patient way that the original did, to deliver a satisfying slice of early seventies science-fiction. I absolutely loved the surreal combination of the barren wasteland and the post-apocalyptic urban underground that Brent encounters. The introduction of the mutant humans that live underground and use their powers to manifest illusions on the surface is an interesting twist in the series, and the very contemporary and sobering end bookends the film nicely against its predecessor. A slightly uneven picture overall, but one that is an enjoyable and essential instalment in this epic series.

2: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

IMDB Rating: 7.6

Directed by Rupert Wyatt / Starring James Franco, Andy Serkis and Freida Pinto

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So many years had passed since the classic original series that many, myself included, rolled their eyes at the thought of another pointless and inevitably poor remake. But as rumour rose to the surface about the truly original plot, and then the stills of Andy Serkis’ Caesar were leaked, everybody started to sit up and take notice. James Franco is in one of his more suited roles as Will Rodman, whom increases the intelligence of apes in an attempt to defeat Alzheimer’s, a disease that has left his own father a shadow of his former self. It is not a perfect film, and I was one of those that winced when Tom Felton shouted, “Get your stinking paws off of me, you damn dirty ape!” , but it nevertheless has left both the old and new generations of fans chewing at their nails in anticipation of the approaching sequel.

1: Planet of the Apes (1968)

IMDB Rating: 8.0

Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner / Starring Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowell and Kim Hunter

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The original and best, 1968′s Planet of the Apes still stands as one of the most thought-provoking science fiction movies of all time. It begins with an achingly patient set of scenes as our intrepid space travellers, led by the intense Heston, make their way slowly across the wastelands to eventually be captured or killed by the brutal gorillas. This sudden change in pace is the movie’s real calling card, and the plot continues to deliver twist after twist that creates such a surreal masterpiece. The tiered society of apes, all strikingly represented by their colours and occupation, serves as a perfect backdrop to the mounting mystery and unanswered questions that permeate the film. The tension that snaps when Heston eventually speaks, is only topped by the famous and unforgettably bleak conclusion as we all realise the truth behind the planet of the apes.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Trailer!

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