11 November 2014

The PLANET OF THE APES Franchise: Original / Beneath / Escape / Conquest / Battle / Remake / Rise Dawn


German Title:
Planet der Affen - Revolution

USA, 2014
Director: Matt Reeves


Just when I thought that summer blockbusters got lame and dissatisfying, this movie came along and blew me away like a steam hammer to my head. "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" is this year's "Pacific Rim", an unbelievably stunning and remarkable example of how insanely perfect the combination between intelligent screenwriting, flawless directing and goofy over-the-top action can work if everyone involved wants to make something special, something we haven't seen before. It could have been "just another Apes flick", but it turned out to be a fucking masterpiece. IMO it's not just one of the best movies that came out in 2014 so far, it's also the absolute best "Apes" flick since 1968.

Director Matt Reeves ("Cloverfield") turned the epic script by Mark Bomback ("Live Free or Die Hard"), Amanda Silver ("The Hand that Rocks the Cradle", "Rise of...") and Rick Jaffa ("Rise of...") into a spectacular and overwhelming piece of awesomeness that manages to be kick-ass action flick, post-apocalyptic science fiction AND heavy emotional drama at the same time. From the indescribably intense opening right until to the final Apes-vs-Humans battle, I was intrigued, mesmerised and totally glued to the screen. There wasn't one single dull moment. "Dawn of..." is tense and thrilling from the very first to the very last second.

Andy Serkis is pitch-perfect as Caesar, delivering a performance that is exceptional. Also, great acting by the still overlooked Jason Clarke the awesome-as-always Gary Oldman and Toby Kebbell as Koba, the most ill-afflicted, most insane, most Hitler/Stalin-esque Ape in history. The CGI is absolutely stellar, cinematography (Michael Seresin, "Angel Heart") and music (Michael Giacchino, "Mission: Impossible 3+4") are both absolutely fantastic, and... well, scenes like Caesar fighting Koba, the "killing" of Caesar, Apes go to war, Koba throwing an ape to death, or the uber-insane 360° shot of Koba riding a tank... THIS is what I'd call powerful, flawless, top-notch filmmaking.

 "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" is pure perfection. A true miracle of a sequel!

Wiki ~ Imdb

All follwing reviews are updated versions of the original reviews which I first wrote in August 2011.


Working Titles:
Caesar / Planet of the Apes: Genesis / Rise of the Apes

German Title:
Planet der Affen - Prevolution

USA, 2011
Director Rubert Wyatt


Holy Gorilla, what was that? Seriously, this is undoubtedly the biggest surprise of 2011 so far: "Rise of the Planet of the Apes", a reboot of the classic 60s/70s "Apes" saga, directed by Rupert Wyatt ("The Escapist"). It's a fantastic movie, excellently written and directed, tense and suspenseful from start to finish, packed with cool nods to the original movie ("You damn dirty ape!", space mission, an ape called Caesar...), as well as with many absolutely outstanding scenes, like all the intense primate shelter scenes, or the explosive climax.

There's lots of wonderful acting from James Franco (I like this guy more and more!), Freida Pinto (what a beauty!), Andy "Gollum" Serkis as hyper-intelligent ape Caesar, and John Lithgow (always a pleasure to see this amazing actor).

Camera work and editing are both excellent, the music is rousing as hell (Patrick Doyle, "Carlito's way"), and the CGI is simply outstanding. Every single ape looks absolutely realistic, plus: all the apes are sympathetic and likeable, thanks to the filmmakers giving them all personality. Who cares about humans? ;)

Fuck you, Tim Burton. THIS is how you do an Apes-flick without ruining the franchise or making fans angry. Massive kudos to everyone who was involved in the making of this film!


German Title:
Planet der Affen

USA, 2001
Director: Tim Burton


He was once one of Hollywoods's greatest, most inventive, most original filmmakers... but then in 2001, Tim Burton made a complete fool out of himself when he was hired to 're-imagine' one of the greatest science fiction films in history and turned it into one of history's absolute worst remakes ever. Based on a script by William Broyles Jr. ("Apollo 13") which was later re-written over and over by Lawrence Konner & Mark Rosenthal ("Superman IV", "Star Trek VI"), Burton basically raped the shit out of those damn dirty apes and insulted nearly every fan who grew up on the original films.

Nothing about this movie is enjoyable in any way. Nothing. The opening was acceptable, but from the moment Kris Kristofferson popped up, it went completely downhill and I couldn't enjoy this piece of shit for one second. The story sucks, the cast is terrible (Mark Wahlberg has never been more miscast), there's no tension, no character development, and the "Ape Lincoln" ending is so stupid, so retarded, so frustratingly bad, I'm still at a loss of words.

Rick Baker's prosthetic makeup is amazing. Everything else isn't.
This remake stinks.


German Title:
Die Schlacht um den Planet der Affen

USA, 1973
Director: J. Lee Thompson


What a huge disaster, what a huge letdown! Already hated "Battle for the Planet of the Apes" as a child and it's still pretty painful to watch this low-budget ape turd which looks and feels as if everyone involved in the production had no real interest in shooting this.

Director Thompson completely failed to create any kind of tension or suspense which resulted into the dullest and most boring entry in the entire "Apes" franchise. Ape City looks lame, the actual battle scenes all look rather ridiculous and unconvincing, and the 'Crying Ape' Statue... bogus, pure bogus. No wonder it was the last Apes flick for a long, long time (*ignoring all the TV series which came afterwards*)

Acting and cinematography are good, the rest is completely forgettable.

Wiki ~ Imdb


German Title:
Eroberung vom Planet der Affen

USA, 1972
Director: J. Lee Thompson

8/10 (original ending) /
7/10 (theatrical ending)

Always loved "Conquest of the Planet of the Apes", the part where we finally get to see how they apes start a revolution and take over (sounds familiar? yup, it was basically the main inspiration for "Rise of the Planet of the Apes") - though I never really liked the quite positive ending with Caesar's final speech and the humans being spared.

However, now that I've finally seen the restored version which has a WAY more brutal ending, I can truly say that this is now definitely my favorite sequel. Town is burning, apes are cheering, Gorillas beating the Humans to death and everyone has a great time - fun! ;-D

Director J. Lee Thompson ("Cape Fear", "Happy Birthday To Me") created a stunning film, darker, more serious and even more atmospheric than the previous installments. I love the look of the ape-costumes and I adore the cold look of the futuristic town. Cinematography is adorable, lighting and editing are fabulous and the music is just awesome. Also, great-as-always acting by Roddy McDowall, as well as splendid performances by Don Murray and Natalie Trundy.

A still quite underrated sequel that deserves way more love and respect!

Wiki ~ Imdb


Working Title:
Secret of the Planet of the Apes

German Title:
Flucht vom Planet der Affen

USA, 1971
Director: Don Taylor


Definitely the most amusing, most entertaining entry in the Apes saga: "Escape from the Planet of the Apes", a prequel to the events in the first films, that could be described as 'Part 1 in reverse': 3 apes (instead of 3 humans) travelling through a space/time porthole into the past (instead of into the future), landing on an Earth dominated by humans (instead of apes).

The movie's far from being perfect due to loads of rather annoying plot holes, plot illogicalities, a few pacing problems in the second half and one of the cheapest-looking gorilla costumes I've ever seen.

Yet, apart from that, it's just enjoyable, especially because of the wonderful performances by Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter who deliver tons of hilarious dialogue lines and one-liners, such as:
"Can you read a map?" - "I'm an archaeologist. I can even draw one."
/ "Dr. Cornelius, tell me: how do you find our women? - "Very Human."
/ "Who won the war?" - "Oh, I don't know. Chimpanzees are pacifists. We stayed at home."

The rest of the cast is also pretty good (especially Bradford Dillman and Eric Braeden), Jerry Goldsmith's groovy soundtrack is awesome and the uber-intense ending is just excellent. Very nice!

Wiki ~ Imdb


Working Titles:
Planet of the Men / Planet of the Apes Revisited

German Title:
Rückkehr zum Planet der Affen

USA, 1970
Director: Ted Post


"Beneath the Planet of the Apes" (directed by Ted Post, "Magnum Force") was actually the first Apes-movie I've ever seen (I was 7 or 8 years old) and I remember that I totally loved it - loads of blood, mutants and burning apes, yeah! What else can a kid of that age expect from a decent afternoon TV program? :-)
Watching it now is a completely different experience: I can't take this movie serious at all. It has some entertainment value but it's far from being a 'good' movie

The first half is more or less a lame remake of Part 1 following another astronaut crash landing on the Planet of the Apes, while the second half is a hilariously grotesque piece of wackiness about telepathic mutants, living underground in abandoned New York, worshipping an atomic bomb.

Acting is quite neat (good performance by James Franciscus, guest appearances by Charlton Heston and Kim Hunter), the soundtrack is great and most of the settings look pretty cool. Yet, the story is completely rubbish, Post's direction is rather dull, the camera work is underwhelming and there's definitely too many cheap-looking, slightly embarrassing-looking effects.

A watchable but unnecessary sequel.

Wiki ~ Imdb


German Title:
Planet der Affen

USA, 1968
Director: Franklin J. Schaffner


 "Planet Of The Apes" is undoubtedly one of the greatest and most impressive sci-fi films ever made. Based on French author Pierre Boulle's novel "La Planète des Singes" (better known as "Monkey Planet or "Planet of the Apes"), director Franklin J. Schaffner ("Papillon", "Patton") created a fascinating and striking film about a group of astronauts crash landing on a planet
ruled by intelligent talking apes.

It's a clever and thought-provoking, but also highly entertaining, almost flawless 60s masterpiece, stunning and extremely well made, be it the visually impressive first half hour (landing, exploration, ape attack), the unsettling captivity, the awesome ape trial, or the ace finale in the 'forbidden zone', including one of the most iconic images in movie history: the remains of the Statue Of Liberty ("You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!").

The acting is simply brilliant, be it human (Charlton Heston, Robert Gunner), be it ape (Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans), make-up and costumes all look terrific, Jerry Goldsmith's atonal score is plain fascinating and four-time Oscar-winner Leon Shamroy's cinematography is a pure feast for the eyes.

A landmark masterpiece and one of the most important American films of all time.


  1. Awesome reviews, as always, although I'm wondering...

    If you thought Tim Burton's remake was so abysmal, why give it 1 point? Was that for the make-up? :)

    1. Yes, because the makeup is basically the only good thing about it ;)

  2. See man I told you that Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is even better than Rise. I would rank Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes first place and second is Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. I never saw any of the early Apes flicks not even the remake. But since I read your review I'll give the early Apes flicks a try except for the remake since I read your review on the remake I'll never watch Tim Burton's remake ever thanks to your review my friend and I even read the reviews on Tim Burton's Planet Of The Apes remake and each of them are extremely negative so I'll never bother with the remake. Also I have the DVD copy of Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes and I've watched it three times already. One time in the cinema and two times at home because it blew me away also. Great reviews man.

  3. Excellent Apes-a-Thon, Harry! I pretty much agree with you across the board here. I would rate both Beneath and Battle slightly higher, but they are the lower points in the original series. I have to sit down with my Blu-Rays of the original movies soon so I can see that original ending for Conquest.

    1. It's insane how much better Conquest works because of that ending. Enjoy!


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