Searching for missing astronaut Taylor and his crew, new arrival Brent goes from the ape village into the forbidden zone, where he finds an underground civilisation, peopled by telepathic mutants. As the apes prepare to annihilate mankind, Brent discovers the answer to his search.
A fair fist of a sequel to the hit sci-fi parable which closed with a fuming Charlton Heston riding off into the distance with his mute paramour Linda Harrison. With a reduced budget and Heston’s reluctance to put on his loincloth, turning up only for the briefest of cameos at the end, Ted Post set about finding a new angle on the future Earth populated by latex monkeys with mixed feelings about humanity’s rights.
Kicking off with a rescue mission was a smart move, it gives the film a chance to start with more or less the same designs as the original — man’s shock at discovering intelligent Simians in charge. Now, though, it is the warlike gorillas who have the upper paw, urging an attack on the Forbidden Zone where a tribe of sentient if mutant humans (including their own variation on latex face tissue) dwell with their precious nuclear bomb. It is here, also, where diffident Heston-clone James Franscicus, along with talk-free sex-bomb Hamilton, will locate the expensive services of Charlton Heston. Roddy McDowell, who had excelled as genial chimp Cornelius, had scheduling problems, but packing David Watson in an indentikit monkey mask at least keeps the continuity if not the acting talent.
It is, in all, a far lesser film. In place of the sharp satire on racism and class, as well as the pontificating over science and religion, is a bullish sci-fi opera, far more gothic and unrestrained. The Forbidden City itself is a splendidly overworked mishmash of future-world and New York Subway station, setting the scene for a thrilling burst of bloody action. The original’s shock ending is replaced with a massive downer. It is, finally, an attempt to sound a similar clarion call at man’s self-destructive folly, but the effect is more whimper than bang. We’ve been there, done that, and bought the plastic orang-utan figurines. A franchise was on the march, all the same. Goddamn you all to hell.
It may be more difficult for a post-Simpsons / Futurama audience to take seriously, but those with the patience to sit through a slow first half will be rewarded with another gutsy ending.