Praying – Beneath the Planet of the Apes

Beneath may be the least of the Apes films, but there are plenty of moments that work. This one creeped the daylights out of me for years and for good reason. Do you ever see otherwise kid-friendly movies with grown adults removing their skin and showing off their radiation damaged bodies? I don’t think so. And neither do you often see them praying to an atomic bomb. You know, for kids! 

This scene plays out quite effectively. Astronaut Brent (aka Taylor 2.0) and Nova go undercover in the secret society that lives in the depths of the Forbidden Zone. They have the ability to speak telepathically and also have written their own elaborate choir pieces that speak the praises of their god, which is a shiny golden bomb. And when you compare this to the scenes of the Apes praying to their own god-like entities, the two groups seem more a like than they probably realize.

This may have been the part I always wanted to fast forward through when I was younger, but now, the complex religious aspects and wacky tone of this scene is something I will never forget. This is one of the most unique elements in any Apes movie.

Caesar’s Speech – Conquest of the Planet of the Apes

After Escape, the budget cuts to the next installment of the Apes series were…significant. Yet somehow, with all the production issues, Conquest manages to be one of my favorites, simply because it is the most bold. It takes some radical and dark turns for the series that are more in line with the current Apes films, and have quite a bit to say when it comes to the history of slavery and racial discrimination in America and around the world.

This becomes the most apparent in the climax of the film, where Caesar (the baby that said “Mama” in Escape, not that one Andy Serkis plays) takes charge of his fellow apes and gives one of the most underrated speeches in cinema history. Roddy McDowell (who is the unsung hero of the franchise) gives it his all here, even going farther than he did when playing Cornelius, and makes you believe that, behind the sometime silly makeup, that he’s a truly believable character. And when he’s questioned about his actions, the conversation that occurs is one of a kind.

It is interesting to note that there are two versions of this scene that were created. One involves Caesar and his apes killing the lead villain on screen, while the other was created to give a more sympathetic punishment to the antagonist, so that more sensitive viewers wouldn’t run out complaining about the lead character being a murderer.

Aldo Wants Guns – Battle for the Planet of the Apes

Battle is not the most well regarded of the Apes films. It was made for (again) a cheap budget and was written with a more family friendly audience in mind (since none of them kids nor parents really liked Conquest all that much.) This is why I tend to look at Battle as more of an elaborate TV movie than an actual film. But that doesn’t mean it lacks any interesting or memorable moments, and most of mine include General Aldo.

I’m not saying I have a thing for the Gorilla characters in these movies, but I do love me an over-the-top baddie and Aldo fulfills that. He’s got a dramatic delivery, doesn’t want any sort of peace with the surviving humans, and he kills Caeser’s kid – the perfect ridiculous baddie recipe. But what makes his character work best is Claude Akin’s insane performance, which is positively Shatner-ian. And nothing perfectly summarizes all of what I love about Aldo than the one tiny moment in the embed above. Though so small, it speaks volumes to this character and just how nuts he truly is.

Is he the greatest villain in all of Apes history? Not even close. But does he leave you excited to see what bizarre thing he’ll do next? Yep.

Caesar is Home – Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Throughout Rise, we grow to love Caesar (Andy Serkis) more than most of the prior Apes characters. From his humble baby beginnings to his eventual turn to power, it is a powerful character arc. But there is one surprise up this movie’s sleeve that is just the cherry on the entire cinematic sundae: one simple line of dialogue.

If you’ve seen Rise, you know that this isn’t the first time we hear Caesar speak. But unlike that other scene, there’s something about just the tiny gestures and quiet elements that make it stand shoulders above any other moment in the film. Here, Caesar’s caregiver (played by James Franco) finds him in the forest and warns him that the humans will hunt him and the other apes down. And rather than harm his human companion or return with him, Caeser just takes him into his embrace and whispers a phrase that makes you heart do cartwheels.

Want a Drink? – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Yep, I still love me a crazy bad guy. And you know who did a great job of playing one? Toby Kebbell. And we need to talk about the moment that catapulted him to the top of the list when it comes to this series’ villains. Here, Koba (Kebbell) comes upon a group of humans playing with guns and drinking. Acting dumb and innocent, Koba walks towards them, even as the humans scream in his direction. He eventually gets them to calm down and let him play with their weapons…and it goes about as well as you’d expect.

Yes, you could say that he is just a carbon copy of Aldo, minus the silly line delivery. But what makes Koba a powerhouse villain by comparison is his belief that what he’s doing is completely, one hundred percent right. He thinks that Caeser knows nothing about ruling over the apes and believes his way is the only way to survive.

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