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An overview and retro-review of the original 'Planet of the Apes' series

Before you see "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," we give a spoiler-free overview of the original series and let you know if they're worth watching again — or for the first time.
Travis Poppleton, KSL Modified: July 7, 2014 at 10:37 pm •  Published: July 8, 2014

This week marks the release of one of summer’s most anticipated films: “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.”

At the time of this article, reviews for “Dawn” are ridiculously positive, with critics comparing the sequel to “Empire Strikes Back” and Nolan’s “The Dark Knight.”

Seeing as this film appears to be based loosely on the classic “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes,” and also because it’s been ages since I’ve written a retro-review, I decided to take a look at the five movies that inspired this weekend’s potential blockbuster.

High level synopsis (almost no spoilers)

Going into this “Apes” marathon, I knew almost nothing about the original series. I believed the five original films took place in the future, which is not the case, and I believed Caesar, the protagonist of the latest films, was part of the entire series, which is also not the case.

The first two films, “Planet of the Apes” and “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” are the Charlton Heston films most people are familiar with — and those are in fact set thousands of years in the future. The third film, “Escape from Planet of the Apes,” uses a loosely explained time travel incident to bring two apes back to the 1970s. There, they are introduced to the human culture in much the same way astronauts were introduced to the ape culture in the first two films.

It’s in “Escape” that we first meet Caesar, who as it turns out, is the offspring of the time-traveling apes. This is the explanation given for his hyper-intelligence and ability to speak, which fans of this latest series will recognize as a major departure from Rupert Wyatt’s “Apes” film.

It’s the last two movies in the series, “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” and “Battle for the Planet of the Apes” that you’ll see the most parallels to what’s hitting theaters this weekend.

You can scroll to the bottom to see if such a marathon is worth your time, but for those interested, here’s a break-out of my experience with each movie.

Planet of the Apes (1968)

This is the mother of all “Planet of the Apes” movies. Charlton Heston plays an astronaut who finds himself thousands of years in the future, when apes rule the Earth. That was kind of a spoiler if you’ve never heard anything about the series, but really, it’s kind of a “Rosebud” spoiler by now, so I don’t feel especially terrible for throwing that out there.

Regardless, this is the best movie of the original series, and if you can’t make it through this one, there’s no reason to keep going. Just check out “the Simpsons” musical parody, “Stop the Planet of the Apes, I want to get Off!” for a complete recap, and then skip to the 2011 movie.

Seeing this for the first time, I had in my brain from pop-culture references exactly what this movie was, and I was pretty far off. Yes, I knew the ending, but it was actually a pretty interesting ride up until the Statue of Liberty.

There’s no reason you’d need to see this before enjoying “Rise,” but definitely worth your time for a classic film night.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

I have no idea what anyone was thinking when this movie got a green light. Everything about the sequel feels like a bad episode of the original “Star Trek” TV series. That’s not a knock on the original “Star Trek,” just the really bad episodes from the original “Star Trek.”

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