Return to Ape World

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Return to Ape World (1984) was a motion picture sequel in the hit film Ape World. It took longer than the studio wished to develop, partly because of problems with the script, but also due to the death of Howard Draft which meant the role of Janus had to be re-cast. Over time, the budget swelled and as a result this motion picture barely made a profit.

Pre-Production

Given the huge profits of the first film, Wolf Studios naturally enough wanted a sequel but problems developed almost immediately. One was the failing health of Howard Draft, who played the "father figure" Orangutan Janus. The role was re-cast, and the script eventually integrated the idea of Janus' death, leaving Francis (again played by Ethan Wright) to make without any such leadership.

Different story ideas were explored, including one about a subterranean civilization of psychic mutant humans on the now-Ape-dominated Earth, whereas another posited a time traveling journey to prevent the Fall of Man. In the end, direction Jaime Cameron's treatment involving a maximum amount of action caught executives' favor.

Plot Summary

The film literally opens where the last left off, with Francis and his mute human mate Oona (Drew Wilkes-Booth) fleeing along with their Ape friends, the Gorilla Cordelia Mary Spacek and the Orangutan Janus from a Chimpanzee hunting party. But one thing is clearly different from a similar scene in the first film--these hunters lack any kind of firearms and are less technologically developed than the Apes of the "first" Ape World.

Several other changes become apparent. Only Chimpanzees are sentient here, led by a religious fanatic called Lazarus (eshewing Shaxeperean and/or Latin names for Biblical ones) who blames the "demons" (humanity) for the ecological problems, especially a disease that has wiped out whole villages.

Unlike the first film, the devolved humans here wear clothing and seem to have something like a religion themselves that brands apes as demonic entities. Francis eventually gathers a tiny group that discovers the source of the "disease" that is impacting both peoples--a robotic factory spewing industrial waste into the water table. Janus dies in this discovery, forcing Francis and Oona and Cordelia to try and disable the factory before it grows any larger. They do this just in time, as both humans and chimpanzees approach, hunting them. Amidst this, Francis finally takes on the mantle of genuine leader.

Reception

Critics in general has positive reviews of the motion picture, but audiences' were somewhat more mixed. By most standards the ticket sales were excellent, save for the enormous cost of the production. Yet most assumed the franchise would continue in some form, albeit with a much-reduced budget. These expectations proved correct with the filming of Ape World Genesis.

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