Synopsis: In this gripping sequel to Planet of the Apes, another astronaut (James Franciscus) crashes through the time barrier searching for Taylor (Charlton Heston). The daring rescue mission leads to a subterranean city where mutant humans worship a weapon capable of destroying the entire planet.
Despite being part of a large-scale franchise, ‘Beneath the Planet of the Apes’ is the only sequel to the original film; all other films have been sequels with the exception of Tim Burton’s remake – even the TV shows were essentially remakes of the original.
Not that the producers had any choice, really, as ‘Beneath’ essentially tears apart the first film and leaves nothing left to work with. For the prequels, they pretty much had to use the few things remaining after ‘Beneath’ and make do with what they had.
I can barely begin to imagine the headaches that this must have given the writers.
However, not only did the makers of ‘Beneath’ napalm the series, but they also served up what I would consider to be one of the most unpalatable sequels to a successful film EVER (the only other one I can think of with a higher “WTF?” quotient is ‘Exorcist II: The Heretic’. And even that’s debatable)
Seriously… WHAT were they thinking?
I guess we need to start with one significant piece of trivia: Charlton Heston did NOT want to make a sequel, but the producers thought he was an essential ingredient to its success, so he relented on the condition that his character would be killed off (to find out whether he is or not, you’ll just have to watch the movie. or read the wiki).
Basically, they didn’t have the leading man that they wanted and had to find a substitute.
So what did they do? They got blonde-haired, blue-eyed James Franciscus to play the lead – in a different role, but one so similar that you just have to wonder if they were maybe hoping to trick the audience. They brought back most of the main players from the previous film, including Nova, the eye-candy, who immediately latches on to the new character in lieu of the old one.
Thus begins my rant against the film:
-not only do they get yet another blonde-haired, blue-eyed guy to show up on the Planet of the Apes, but he does so at exactly the same place and almost the same time as the original astronaut did (small world, huh?). AND he also gets the girl. The SAME one. !@#$
-the characters end up at the Ape village for NO reason at all other than to show us some apes. Honestly, when our new hero asks Nova to take him to Taylor, who he was sent to find, she brings him where Charlton Heston’s character ISN’T. Why? Granted, she can’t understand English. But if she understood the word “Taylor” enough to spark a reaction, she would have brought the new guy where she last saw the old one. Unless she’s really, REALLY soft in the head, I mean. But she was able to ride a horse and survive by herself so she isn’t.
-new guy accepts this ape situation all too easily. It’s pretty much “Apes? really? Oh, look, pretty thing!”. I know the filmmakers probably didn’t want to go over the initial parts of the first film word for word, but give me a break already. For an explorer, he’s certainly not intrigued easily.
And yet the filmmakers start off making the same darned film as the original one, except for one key thing: it’s frickin’ boring!!! Like, “gag-on-my-popcorn-’cause-I’ve-fallen-asleep” boring! And it’s filled with continuity errors, including the following:
-Dr. Zaius is now a affable guy and he wants to explore ape and human history instead of falling back on his religious beliefs to maintain the ape civilization at its staus quo. He no longer lives in fear but with hope. Dramatic change, much?
-Drs. Zira and Cornelius aren’t thrown in jail and discredited for betraying their kind. In fact, suddenly, they are now Dr. Zaius’ best friends, and he asks them to replace him as lawgiver while he’s away – despite the fact that they are chimps and that he has ourangutan colleagues he could turn to. What the…? Not that he is lawgiver in the first movie (he’s PART of a council), but what’s the point arguing?
-the Forbidden Zone got its name for a reason: no one is supposed to go there. In the original film, it was an outrage that Cornelius had gone digging there. And yet, out of the blue, we discover that gorillas have sent a dozen scouts there and only one has returned. No one bats a simian eye at this development. Well, colour me inconsistent!
Of course, that last bit is just an excuse to have the gorillas go and wage war on a race of mutant humans, a lame set of characters that worship nuclear weapons and have developped telepathic abilities over the centuries (much like the apes’ speech and intelligence). Forget the fact that discovering advanced humans would shake the apes’ beliefs much like extra-terrestrial encounters would ours – not relevant!
They really rammed this poorly-staged battle down our throats: instead of preventing the apes from attacking by creating illusions telepathically, as they easily do with humans, they fail because “the apes’ minds are too weak to hold illusions”. Duh… stronger minds can control weaker minds, silly person! Otherwise, accordingly, it would mean that more developped minds would be more prone to manipulation. Very counter-intuitive, no?
Pretty much everything that was good in the original film was turned to complete crap here (and the original isn’t perfection itself in the first place!). Even the social commentary felt forced and barely thought out; it was blunt and awkwardly inserted in the film (case-in-point: the chimpazee peace activists… you have to see the scene to understand how pathetic it gets)
In fact, they didn’t have a suitable ending for the film, so it was Charlton Heston who came up with the final sequence. Granted, it’s a dramatic way to close the film, but being bereft of ideas doesn’t mean taking out a “scorched earth” policy, does it? Frankly, it’s better than the other two ideas that were batted around by the director, but they shouldn’t have gone ahead until they had finsihed writing the darned script!
Honestly, ‘Beneath the Planet of the Apes’ is a subpar film which lands well below any expectations. It is beneath its viewing audience, as far as I’m concerned; I can’t think of many redeeming qualities and certainly wouldn’t recommend it.
Thanks goodness the rest of the series made up for it in some fashion.