Excellent low-budget re-working of Planet Of The Apes story...
"Gorilla Warfare: Battle of the Apes", the Polonia brothers' 2002 melding of the adventure and science fiction genres, is a tour-de-force of beefy comic book plotting and lean suspenseful thrills, clearly inspired by "Planet of the Apes" and "The World's Most Dangerous Game". From the outset, the film works almost as a spin-off of "Planet of the Apes" - only matted against the backdrop of space. Sometime in the near future (or in the deep past?) a supreme race of apes dominate the universe, waging wars amongst themselves on the various planets and in the stars. It's a primate ruled universe where the greatest source of revenue comes from the trade of human beings, which are bought and sold for money, slave labor or what have you.
During a routine pilgrimage, the crew of Ape Ship 7 (interestingly, that's the number of apes aboard) finds itself caught up in a violent battle with another team of apes hell bent on seizing their human cargo. While mired in the skirmish, the ship is thrown off course and into a corkscrew-like wormhole. Upon reaching the other side, the vessel crash lands on a nearby forested planet. The three humans on board, destined for slave labor, or, something much worse, in the case of the female, decide to make a break for freedom, blindly rushing off into the dense forest. The apes on board soon realize that the humans have escaped and immediately send out roving search parties to find and capture the humans.
Following the explosive first ten minutes, the film settles into a cat and mouse game as the apes doggedly pursue their human captors, while the escapees do everything in their power to allude them. The three humans, Baal, Femme and Lokar, are played by Brice Kennedy ("Hellgate: House That Screamed 2"), Kimberlee A. Gibson ("NightThirst") and Jeff Dylan Graham ("Malefic") -- all three of which have worked together on previous Polonia brothers films with varying results. "Gorilla Warfare: Battle of the Apes" allows all three of these actors a chance to excel in their very particularized roles.
Jeff Dylan Graham, an actor who has been used sparingly in other Polonia brothers movies, is finely given a chance to shine playing the contemptible Lokar. Rude and presumptuous, with his hair bleached blonde and unpleasant snarl, Lokar, unpleasant from the start, abandons his mates in favor of quick getaway. As is the tradition of other Polonia brothers movies, where the sense of morality is never skewed, his selfishness is repaid in kind.
Coming as a total surprise is the love story that develops between the remaining two characters, Baal (Brice Kennedy) and Femme (Kimberlee A. Gibson) as they attempt to survive in the new environment. In between standard action scenes, and some bizarre, sometimes comical dialogue, emerges a somewhat palpable if not outright sweet chemistry between Kennedy and Gibson.
The scenes between Jon McBride ("Cannibal Campout") and John Polonia ("Splatter Farm"), as the apes, who speak telepathically, come off as only somewhat thrilling, with each pursuing their captors for their own magnanimous reasons. One wants to change, the other wants to hold onto tradition, and it's predictable that they will come to blows over it, eventually. There is some comic, almost slapstick, activity back at the downed ship, as the apes monitor the events transpiring in the surrounding woods. It helps to lighten the mood, but it often comes at the expense of what could have been more character development between Gibson and Kennedy. The scenes between those two actors hint at a much better movie just wanting to get out. The scene where Gibson makes Kennedy swear an oath to kill her rather than let the apes breed with her, is a stand-out.
I noticed at least a few analogies drawn to the Bible, with Baal and Lokar representing, at least to me, Cain and Abel in the Garden of Eden. The film's biggest surprise, however, comes in the closing moments, with a revelation that is so totally unexpected that it forces the audience to reassess earlier scenes, placing them in certain juxtaposition to known scripture. A second viewing will be much different than the first, I assure you, as various perspectives will have shifted in the second go-round. Personally, I loved this revelation, and didn't see it coming even for a second.
The special effects, which are very good, are handled by two veteran filmmakers, Brett Piper ("They Bite") and Joe Castro ("Jackhammer Massacre"). Their unique FX contributions help give the film a real authentic quality, and very rarely are you taken out of the film to consider how awful this effect was or that effect was -- a detail that has hindered several previous Polonia brothers efforts. The cinematography, by the brothers and frequent co-conspirator Jon McBride, is handled with great sensitivity and care. In several scenes, especially in Gibson, Kennedy and Graham's, they utilize the "Blair Witch" style shaky-cam in order to infuse the audience in with their growing sense of hopelessness and desperation. By contrast, the camera-work involving the apes is much more stable and organized. One sequence I really enjoyed comes late in the film after Baal has apparently been shot. Watch as the camera moves in on Gibson with the revelation that Baal, the man she (and the audience) has grown to care for immensely, is dead. It's a terrific moment that best conveys the sense that everything has suddenly begun to spin out of control. It's definitely not what one comes to expect from the Polonia's who sometimes rely on the easiest shot possible in order to keep the production on schedule. It's truly superb.
Another enjoyable film from the team of Jon McBride and the Polonia brothers.
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