This review is part of a series of reviews Journey to the Planet of the Apes to prepare for the newest installment.
You can find all the reviews here.
The sequel to Planet of the Apes has more than one problem, but the biggest is that it just looks like a bad science fiction movie. Interestingly the first movie while looking considerably dated, featuring camera movements and storytelling techniques that would not resonate with nowadays audience does not feel cheap or bad and holds our interest.
Sure the background music is the corny music that screams DRAMATIC, SURPRISING, SAD! that we have come to associate with old and over the top movies, but what saves Planet of the Apes is that despite its noticeable age the story is well done, the characters and conflicts are very interesting and of course the final revelation is still strong.
Beneath the Planet of the Apes does not have those things. It introduces a second pilot Brent who miraculously appears by the power of the almighty plot on the planet like Taylor (Charlton Heston) did because he was sent to look for Talyor. And just from the beginning this movie feels like so many other sequels – the main actor is just a glorified cameo. The new character has no interesting traits at all and instead of chasing the interesting storyline “What did Taylor do afterwards?” we have to follow Brent through what is basically the same story as the first movie only this time the realization that Apes are hunting is not really that shocking.
The redundancy continues as Brent is aided by the progressive scientists Cornelius and Zira from part one who will be of big importance for the future installments. Again we are treated to the discussion about apes lying about their history and religion to gain power but it all feels so “been there done that” and in between we get a sauna sequence with two apes… which is as comfortable and serious to watch as it is to read.
So after the “best of” sequence has finished Brent finally finds out that in the forbidden zone humans have survived underground and have developed telekinetic powers to torture Brent in a way so cheap it would have made Star Trek proud. But there are a few highlights about this underground city, most importantly the fact that the society of humans worships a nuclear bomb that hasn’t gone off, which is a storyline that is still popular seeing as it is recycled in games like Fallout 3.
Starting a tradition of fucked up endings Beneath the Planet of the Apes goes where no ape has gone before. After the audience has already fallen asleep from all the “Arggg mind attack!!!!” sequences, there is a pretty creepy revelation that the underground society is actually hiding their disgustingly mutated faces beneath masks to look normal.
In the original script this was a really well developed storyline but in this version just the shock remains. At this moment I was back in, it was a nice change of dynamics, it felt original and unexpected and not as if the movie was trying to imitate the original – but of course they realized they were becoming too interesting and the ape army finally arrives and after 5 minutes of unexcited ape fighting Brent decides to finish what Taylor accused the humans of doing and blows up the entire planet and with it the chance for a sequel…
Until Escape from the Planet of the Apes
Beneath is a bad sequel, but there are some very interesting ideas in it that could have made a truly great and unique movie – but trust me the worst is yet to come.