"Escape from Ape Mountain". Well, actually, considering what Taylor found at the end of the first one, this is more like the original "Escape from New York". Yeah, don't mention what he found, but mention New York, because that definately keeps it from being a spoiler. Oh well; if you don't know the twist by now, then you deserve the spoiler. No, but seriously though, I wish that this was as exciting as... I hear "Escape from New York" is. ...Hey, if you're judging me for not seeing "Escape from New York" and are the same guy who doesn't know the twist at the end of "Planet of the Apes", then you definately deserve the spoiler, but I don't feel like making the effort, because this film made me too tired. No, this film isn't that slow, but it certainly isn't quite as action-packed as its predecessors, and yet, I feel that it might just be more entertaining, which isn't to say that the film doesn't have its share of slow points that drag to the point of becoming unengaging, nor is it to say that slowness isn't the only dent in this thing.
I love how they've managed to make humanized monkeys look, to an extent, believable, but when they actually bring in a puppet of a real, animalistic gorilla, they all but have Kermit the Frog walk into frame. I don't know if it's because the production design is dated, or if it was just weak from the get-go, but eitherway, the puppet is fairly obvious, though not quite as obvious as the fact that its sounds were clearly third-party sound effects, because they didn't even try to make it fit with the rest of the sound design. The offputting tone set by some areas of the technical value is matched only by some areas of score, as well as writing. No, the screenplay isn't packed with simian references again, and thank Kong for it, as well as for putting in some actually really good lines in this, but there are some huge development points that I feel needed more exploration outside of mere exposition. Of course, that's not to say that I wouldn't mind a little exposition at points, because there is some character behavior that really needed some build-up. Yes, there are a share of missteps found in the film, but in spite of it all, there's so much more heart and drama behind this film, and all of that plays a key part in making this film arguably the most thought-provoking installment yet. It's certainly the most character driven addition so far, and that's what makes this film just as impacting as entertaining.
It's certainly a fascinating idea to see the tables turned, and director Don Taylor milks the concept for all it's worth. Taylor summons life and entertainment value in the earlier stages of the film, but still keeps the film down-to-earth enough to keep this fish-out-of-water tale from losing all seriousness. That makes the transition into the more dramatic aspects much smoother, and it certainly helps that Taylor knocks that department out, presenting the inhumanities in humanity in a fashion that tops any previous installment, in terms of thought provoking, but still pulls back enough for us to still see this as more than just propaganda. This is still a story, packed with intrigue and drama that Taylor does a solid job at manipulating to where you do get a definate emotional rise, which intensifies as the film progresses. Still, Taylor couldn't have established this much emotional resonance without the assistance of his leads, Roddy McDowell and Kim Hunter, who's chemistry and charm really carry the film during the more fluffy parts, but when the drama does come into play, they carry the emotion and strength in their presence to really draw you into every beat of their struggles, and really lock into the Cornelius and Zira characters more than ever. I wish I could say that the film is as good as I'm making it sound, but it's not quite there. Still, although the film isn't perfect, it's still an effective twist on the saga that feels quite smooth and quite welcomed.
In conclusion, it has its offputting elements, as well as the periodic steam loss that this series is not unfamiliar with, but in spite of that, this twist on the storyline's introduction is as smooth as it is satisfying, thanks to Don Taylor's fine establishment of entertainment value preceeding thought-provoking, emotionally resonant drama, as well as strong performances from Roddy McDowell and Kim Hunter, who play key parts in making "Escape from the Planet of the Apes" the thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying return to form for the classic saga that it is.
3/5 - Good