In the original Planet of the Apes Charlton Heston somehow crash lands on a planet where apes have evolved and rule the world, humans are subjugated. In the very final shot Heston sees a half buried Statue of Liberty and realizes that this is humanity’s future. Heston somehow traveled through time. Beneath the Planet of the Apes has another astronaut end up on the PotA in search of Heston and finds Heston in captivity, held by apes who are worshipping a still active atomic bomb. Throughout we have met the apes Cornelius and Zira. Well, after the Earth is destroyed it turns out that Cornelius and Zira were in a space ship of their own and the backlash of the exploding planet sends the apes back in time and in Escape from the Planet of the Apes the two apes are now on present day Earth (at the time of the movie, it’s the early 1970’s) and there is wonderment about their stories of the future and just the fact that these are two articulate apes. At the end the two apes are murdered and their infant son is taken in by a circus man who tried to help them.
Flash forward twenty years and we’re up to Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. The circus man is showing Cesar the ape around the city showing him, and in turn the viewer, what Earth is like. 8 years ago some mysterious disease killed off all the domestic animals on the planet and humans turned to apes and monkeys for pets, but as the relative intelligence of the apes increased the animals went from pets to slaves. And it is this brutal Earth that Cesar experiences. Cesar is seen as a threat as he was assumed to have been killed twenty years ago and he ends up leading an ape revolution and the future seems to be fixed, that apes really will take over the planet.
After the quite good Planet of the Apes, the rest of the sequels are all pretty poor. This may be a little bit better than the previous sequels, but not by much. It’s purely a matter of opinion and preference. The original film turned the tables on the human/animal relationship and showed just how inhumane humanity could be by how the apes treated the humans. That, and it was a neat science fiction play. The next two movies did not do much with anything of importance. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes does show exactly why the apes revolted. So, there is a certain amount of power and disgust in the behavior of man and one could almost say that we deserved it. But it is heavy handed and we know exactly where this story is going. There is no mystery here.