Film Review: Empire of the Apes (2013)

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SYNOPSIS:

In a distant galaxy three escaped female convicts crash land on a primitive world inhabited by a race of warlike apes. They fight for survival as the humanoid apes fight for their possession, body and soul. A daring escape is their only way out. Hot on their heels are the blood lusting gorillas and a prison warden bent on their return to the prison ship they escaped from. Treachery, alliances and battle await the fighting factions. Who will survive on a planet where apes rule and humans are only breeding stock.

REVIEW:

The plot’s pretty simple. Three female fugitives are held captive aboard a prison ship in space. The warden has cut a deal to sell the women to an alien race for a substantial profit. The women escape in a shuttle landing on a planet that bears a strong resemblance to back woods Pennsylvania, go figure.

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The planet is ruled over by a violent race of ape humanoids that confront, pursue and imprison our three female protagonists for most of the movie. Eventually the warden from the prison ship tracks them down because anything else at this point would be a plot complication.

He confronts the apes, they confront him and a deal is struck for safe passage via his ship to leave their world in exchange for gems that look like diamonds. And for the 172nd time in the movie the women escape yet again.

To make a long story short, the women get away and one leaves with an ape. The warden’s treachery is discovered whereupon he’s imprisoned and executed. The final scene in the movie concerns our main female protagonist, Dane, giving birth to a baby ape. I never saw that coming.

I know “Empire…” is low budget, I get it, and for the first forty minutes I was actually into the movie but the script fell apart and lost me. It was almost as if writer / director Mark Polonia threw his hands into the air and said, “Well, that’s all I got folks, where do we go from here?”

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There’s no excuse to allow the writing to drop off mid-way through a project. Regardless of the genre, the script has to be tight because it doesn’t have a cost related to it in the budget unless you hired someone to write it which is unlikely. When the script is good a lot can be forgiven. Not so in “Empire…” It went from bad to embarrassing in a heartbeat. I can deal with poor special effects, after all, money’s tight and I can get around the weird fire animation, the bad chimp sound bites and the space ship that looked a kid’s toy bought at a garage sale, that’s ok, it is what it is, I’m OK with that.

Instead my attention was trained upon how bad the movie truly was. There were moments when I had to remind myself that I wasn’t watching public access TV although in retrospect I wish I had been. The main sticking points for me were the absurd costuming issues and eighth grade acting that plagued this movie from start to finish.

Costuming should be a huge priority in any sci-fi / fantasy film and with this movie it looked like an afterthought, if that. I’m still trying to figure out why two of the three female protagonists were dressed in black spandex leggings and sports bras while the third looked like she was either going to or coming from a Blake Shelton concert. It didn’t make sense. It struck me that Polonia might’ve been debating over “do we make them sexy or not?” and couldn’t come up with an answer which is bad. The actors portraying the apes wore cheesy Halloween masks, I kid you not. I could see no visible effort to hide this fact or play it down. I was bothered that it didn’t look like any effort was made to fix this issue which gave me the impression that Polonia was either taking the audience for granted or just didn’t care.

That’s a big oversight to make and it should’ve been corrected. I love low budget movies but I get offended when production values appear as if ignored or no one cared. I don’t know if this was the case but that’s the impression I got.

“Empire of the Apes” looks like something a group of high school kids with their dad’s credit card and a video camera produced over a weekend of bong hits and too many vine videos. At best this movie, and I use that term loosely, is live action role playing at its worst. I don’t recommend buying nor renting “Empire of the Apes.” It’s a disaster.

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