The story opens with a recap. The sound of the waves crashing against the beach and Cornelius reading from the Ape scrolls. “Beware the beast man, for he is the Devil’s pawn…” Taylor (Charlton Heston) and Nova (Linda Harrison) ride off and find the Statue of Liberty. As they continue to travel the Forbidden Zone, they come across a wall of fire and a great earthquake. Taylor gets off the horse to investigate and tells Nova if anything happens, she is supposed to find Zira for help. Taylor disappears into rock face illusion and Nova is left alone.
Meanwhile, in the desolate part of the Forbidden Zone, a new rocket has crashed with two astronauts sent to find Taylor. One of them is seriously injured and dies leaving Brent (James Franciscus) to fend for himself and figure out what to do next. Nova shows up on a horse and Brent tries to figure out who she is. He sees Taylor’s dog tags necklace and convinces Nova to take him to Taylor.
Nova takes Brent to the Apes village and his mind is blown. He watches in amazement to hear Gorilla General Ursus (James Gregory ) to say, “The only good human, is a dead human.” Nova then sneaks Brent into Zira (Kim Hunter) and Cornelius’ (David Watson) place who are shocked there’s another human like Taylor. They agree to help Brent and Nova with a map and supplies.
Brent and Nova get captured by the Gorillas, but just before they get sent for target practice, Zira tweaks the cage lock for their escape. Brent gets the upper hand with the Gorilla and they manage to get away.
Brent and Nova make it to semi-hidden crevice opening in the rocks and discover the underground ruins of New York City and the subway. As they wander around, they are attacked by strange noises and impulses to act violently. They get captured by some strange people who speak telepathically to Brent. They explain they are a people of peace, yet they worship an atomic bomb and plan on destroying everything if attacked by the Apes.
Brent gets thrown into the jail cell where Taylor is being held. One of the strange humans uses his telepathic powers to get Brent and Taylor to fight as Nova is being brought down to the cell. She sees Taylor and says his name for the first time catching the strange human off guard. This moment gives Taylor and Brent a chance to fight against the strange human and try to escape.
Meanwhile, the Apes have made their way to the underground city and have begun fighting the underground humans. A battle ensues between Brent, Taylor, the strange humans, and the Apes. As a last resort, Taylor makes his way to the atomic bomb controls and pushes the button blowing everything up.
What I Liked
I liked the sequel picked up with archived footage of the first movie to set the premise of the sequel’s timeline within 24 hours of Taylor and Nova riding away and discovering the Statue of Liberty. Introducing Brent to the Apes was still fresh even though much was a rehash of seeing Taylor’s first reaction to seeing the Apes.
I liked the larger variety of Apes with Chimpanzee’s holding the legislative status, the Apes holding the intellectual and common status, and the Gorillas holding the military status as it gave depth to the community of the Apes we didn’t really explore in the first installment.
I liked the underground ruins of New York with just enough items still in tact for Brent to figure out he’s in the future. And the strange humans living there with their robes and shiny gold atomic bomb. I liked they remove their human face masks to reveal the effects of radiation on their skin. The religious aspect of singing “All Things Bright and Beautiful” but with God replaced by “bomb”. Even when we don’t have anything, we find something to worship….
I really liked the opening credits of just hearing the waves crash against the shore as well as the complete silence in the end credits. The film lets you sit there in your thoughts about the message it’s trying to send you. If you don’t change your human destructive ways against one another….this will be your fate…
What I Wished Was Better
I know I said I liked all the different Apes; however…this film introduces more torture done to the humans which wasn’t explored in the first. It has the Gorilla army using their human captures as target practice, net throwing practice, and or whatever else they need practice doing. For people who claimed to be intellectually superior and without unnecessary violence, they sure have a lot of it in the sequel.
In the timeline, only about 24-48 hours has gone by and they’ve gone from never being allowed into the Forbidden Zone and not knowing what’s out there to regular outings by the Gorilla Army. Now the Gorillas want space of their own for their groups to live and Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans) agrees to it even though he destroyed the evidence in the cave Cornelius’ had been exploring.
I would’ve liked more backstory on how the radiation people survived this long, how they acquired the atomic bomb, and have kept it so pristine all these years. Do they ever go outside? What do they eat? Not much is revealed about them other than they’re just as bad as the Apes. Both sides claim to be for peace and intelligence but get them in a room together… and Blammo!
Beneath the Planet of the Apes reminds us nothing has changed and nothing will change as long as we continue on the same path of mistrust, violence, and feeling superior above others. We are our own worst enemy. Will humans ever learn? Available to rent on streaming platforms. Watch the trailer below:
Fun Facts: Roddy McDowall was busy directing a movie preventing him from reprising his role as Cornelius. Charlton Heston wasn’t interested in doing a sequel but came back in a supporting role as a favor and donated his salary to charity. The budget for Beneath was cut in half to $2.5 million and spent two weeks at number one.