Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Last of the Simian Blather (Aren't you happy?)

Severn Darden is an actor I find impossible to take seriously. Most likely this is because he has a strong background in comedy. Maybe it's the Leslie Nielsen factor: once Mr. Nielsen started doing comedy, he rendered all of his early, serious roles completely laughable. Have you ever tried to watch Leslie Nielsen in Forbidden Planet? It's impossible not to laugh!

And so it is with Darden, who plays a homicidal mutant governor in Battle for the Planet of the Apes and is supposed to be a menace. He's certainly a menace to the movie itself. As with Beneath the Planet of the Apes before it, the mutant humans come off like are silly throwbacks to the Buck Rogers serials, and in this movie Mr. Darden makes matters much worse. Every shot that he appears in provokes unintended chortling. A part of me suspects that he was consciously playing it as comedy, because as written the thing is already hard to take seriously.

There is some compelling Ape Interest as Roddy McDowell does his damnedest to hold the thing together. The conflict between his Caesar and Claude Akins's General Aldo is well handled. And I had forgotten that the battle of the film's title is not the misguided attack on ape city by the mutant humans, but Caesar's struggle to change the course of future history and prevent the violent world of the first two Apes movies from ever coming about -- which he apparently succeeds in doing!

That part of it is interesting enough to justify the movie. But just when we're feeling mildly friendly towards it, along comes Servern Darden in his Halloween costume trying to "boo" us.

This was followed by a short-lived TV series that I remember quite liking. Still, I've had enough monkey bidness for the time being and think I will pass on that one. . . for now, anyway.

-- Freder.

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