Friday, July 20, 2018

Empire of the Apes

Empire of the Apes
Mark Polonia

Dane (Danielle Donahue), Theel (Elizabeth Costanzo, and Jada (Marie DeLorenzo) escape from a life of slavery only to land on a planet ruled by a tribe of intelligent apes. Their leader Korg (Ken Van Sant) would like nothing more than to use these humans to his advantage. Slaver, Captain Zantor (Steve Diasparra) arrives to get them back. The trio is not interested in submitting to anyone and they find their only ally is a heroic ape named Trask (Jeff Kirkendall).

If for nothing else, you have to admire Empire of the Apes for its sheer ambitiousness. Most microbudget productions can barely muster the resources to have a bunch of modern-day characters stalked and slashed by a masked killer. Empire of the Apes scoffs at those limitations and throws in a spaceship, lasers, space-prison wardens, a village full of ape-men, and even a dystopic future setting. Now, for how successful it is at doing these things is up for debate. Within the standards of conventional filmmaking, it falls short, but if you look at Mark Polonia’s body of SOV work, Empire of the Apes is confident and relatively well constructed.

"Anyway, I call it Two Girls, One Banana. What do you think?"
Most of the ape masks and many of the props look like they were purchased at a Spirit store’s post-Halloween sale.  The apes wear what I can only describe as medieval villager clothing with the occasional trench coat. The three prisoners look to be sporting some workout clothing and cutoffs… excuse me, space-workout-clothing, and space-cutoffs. Sometimes there is a fine line between an impoverished production and a lazy one, in the non-ape costuming department Empire of the Apes feels lazy. Perhaps most of the resources when into costuming the apes, they certainly have a lot more screen time than the humans.

Since this is a small production, you would think it is much more inclined towards some exploitation to help attract attention over a mainstream Planet of the Apes type film. Empire of the Apes doesn’t indulge in any nudity or much on-screen violence, but it does put three women in danger of becoming breeding stock for apes. Tastelessness can be a big draw, and although Empire of the Apes doesn’t graphically pursue this notion, it indulges in it more than you might suspect. I can almost guarantee you will be laughing at the film's final moment leading into the sequel, Revolt of the Empire of the Apes (2017).

"I'm not drunk! You're drunk."
Look, this is a Polonia movie, it’s not going to look great and it’s not going to be acted especially well.  Watching people in costumes stand around on a "wild planet" with nicely mowed grass can only take you so far.  Even though it only runs 79 minutes, it is about 39 minutes too long before heading into a final act twist that may cause whiplash in the viewer. Yet, despite all that, I kind of admire the audacity of Mark Polonia to even try and make such a film. Empire of the Apes is a hairy mess, but it must work on some level because I am curious to see where this all going.

Dollar Tree Boba Fett

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