“Beneath the Planet of the Apes” is the most unnecessary bore I’ve ever seen. Not only does it repeat all of the same notes as the first “Planet of the Apes” for the first half of the movie, but does so without any sense of grandeur. Despite having a new man from our time, Brent (James Franciscus), discovering everything we already knew, he never looks any more interested than he would at the DMV, while never giving us any sense of a character or likability. It also certainly doesn’t help that he looks exactly like Charlton Heston, like the filmmakers wanted us to impose our feelings about Heston’s character onto Brent.
The film gets better in the second half, introducing the now-famous worshippers of an atomic bomb, but even then their behavior is wildly inconsistent and clashes with the ape storylines that it feels like it was taken from a different movie. And for what? An even bleaker and more depressing ending than the first film. At least that ending was shocking and put a new light on the entire movie. But this is just shocking for the sake of a shock. No reflection from the apes after getting undeniable evidence that there was an advanced civilization before them, no mutant trying to be anything more than cruel and manipulative or ever putting up a fight in the end, and no redemption for what’s left of humanity in the face of destruction. There is no message here other than humans are terrible, which shows how little thought was actually put into this movie.
Final Grade: D+