Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
The year was 1972. The Vietnam War was slowly coming to an end, the civil rights moment had been a success, and black power was taking over the U.S.A.
"Conquest of the Planet of the Apes" was directed by J. Lee Thompson, and stars Roddy McDowall, Ricardo Montalban, Don Murray, Natalie Trundy, Hari Rhodes, Severn Darden, Lou Wagner, John Randolph, Asa Maynor, H.M. Wynant, and David Chow. It is part IV of the Ape Series. This is a sequel that I think requires the viewer to at least see part III to fully understand what's going on in part IV. You won't be completely confused if you're a first time Ape viewer since part of the history of the Apes films is covered in dialogue however.
The story takes place in 1991. We the audience learn that eight years earlier in the year 1983, a disease killed all the cats and dogs, leaving human beings with no pets. To replace them, people took in Apes as their pets. Because the Apes have so much intelligence, humans train them to perform chores and run errands. By 1991, the very foundation of the United States of America is based on the backbone of Ape slave labor, proving that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.
However, in the minds of most of the humans, this is different. Yes, the U.S. Constitution says "All Men are Created Equal", but it says no such things about Apes. Clearly the majority of Americans in this film just cannot let go of the concept of slavery. Since they lost their human slaves over a hundred years earlier, things can now get back to "normal" for American society by coercing Apes to replace their human slaves.
While Apes are smart, they are still just animals, and are not entitled to the same rights as humans. At least this is how many of the humans in the film think. The state is run with a strict hand by a man named Governor Breck who has no mercy on the Apes.
Circus owner Armando and a young circus chimpanzee named Caesar go to a local city to promote Armando's circus. Caesar is highly intelligent, and knows how to talk. He has spent his entire life sheltered, and living in safety with Armando. When he goes to the city, and see's how Apes are treated, he finds this to be highly upsetting. Armando warns Caesar not to speak, or otherwise, Caesar could be enslaved. Can Caesar hold in his anger?
MY THOUGHTS -
The film presents a clear case against animal cruelty, and it has so many parables that I could ramble for hours discussing them, and disecting them, so I'll only discuss the White/Black issue that is clearly present in "Conquest".
I've had the displeasure of having conversations with White Supremacists and Black Supremacists before. It's interesting how both groups have two things in common - They are both racist, and plenty of them are fans of the Planet of the Apes films. For the Black Supremacists, the films serve as a Black Man's fantasy of getting revenge against White men. For the White Supremacists, the films serve as a warning to White people that if they do not control Black people, they could rise up against them.
I mentioned "The Birth of a Nation" in my title - For the unware, "The Birth of a Nation" was a black and white silent film from 1915. The second half of that film is about White men forming the KKK and rising up against the former slaves who had taken over the South.
I believe this film is in a sense a response to it - It shows the audience exactly why any group of slaves would be angry, and would have no mercy on their former masters, but also presents the question - Is it still morally right to react with so much violence and hate?
"Conquest" completely mirrors the original Planet of the Apes, only the roles between Apes and humans are reversed. "Conquest" is by far the most darkest and most disturbing of the Apes films. Some may argue that this film is anti-white, and stereotypes white men as all being dominating, heartless, power-hungry monsters. On that note, one of the reasons I think that "Conquest" is so much emotionally darker then the other Ape films is because we the audience are so use to seeing White men in charge, in both films, and in real life, that perhaps it's less-disturbing seeing them in a slave role like we saw in the first two Apes films, but in "Conquest", we are treated to a subconscious *disturbing* reminder of how the U.S.A. use to be when it had human slaves. I also could not help but think of Nazi-Germany when watching this film.
The truth is, White men will never face the hell others have faced. The Roman Empire, The British Empire, The French Empire, The United States of America, Nazi-Germany, and The Soviet Union were all formed by White men, and were (and in the case of the U.S.A., is still) very powerful nations.
Jokes about White men, or films that make some White men look bad are nothing compared to what we White men have actually done. We all subconsciously know who has ruled this planet for the most part. I think that's why films like "Conquest" get away with so much, and why you'll never hear too much protesting if a black comedian makes jokes about White men. Those are all just words, and do not damage the White race or what it's done, and still does.
I am not trying to be racist against my own race, since it was White men who helped Black people, and plenty of others get the rights they finally were given. I am just addressing the issue of if this film places White men in a bad light, and why even if it does, why we White men should not be offended. That's another thing about "Conquest" - It's not dated, and can still easily spark controversial discussions about human rights.
There are no heroes or villains in "Conquest". Just people doing what they think is right. If you're familiar with the first two Apes films, then I think we the viewers should understand Governor Breck's fears and his anger. Governor Breck clearly knows what will happen to the human race if the Apes rise against them, so it makes sense that Governor Breck would be so strict on Apes.
As I mentioned in my "Escape" review, I think a very clear message to the public is that any corrupt system is wrong. I also think while the films support civil rights, it is saying to the black audience that while they were entitled to be angry for what happened to them, that they should be better then their oppressors. That they should not stoop themselves to the level of the KKK and behave as they do, and that is with violence and hatred.
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older