Twenty years have passed since Cornelius, Zira, and Dr. Milo arrived on Earth. During those years, cats and dogs died of a mysterious disease, and apes became both household pets and servants for mankind. The United States became oppressive and fascist in culture, of uniformed classes and castes, based upon ape slave labour. And Milo, now known as Caesar, is a horseback rider in Armando's circus.
Conquest has received mostly mixed reviews.
In 2011, 20th Century Fox rebooted the Planet of the Apes film series starting with Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It had a similar plot synopsis to Conquest, in which the protagonist is also a chimpanzee named Caesar who leads an ape rebellion against the humans.
A final sequel to this movie, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, was released in 1973.
This movie contains examples of:
- Antagonistic Governor: Governor Breck, the main antagonist of the film. By the then future year of 1991 (the film was released in 1972), the United States is a police state, and it's shown that the Governor's word is law in this new America.
- Anthropomorphic Shift: The apes have become more human-like in form as a side effect of the mysterious disease that killed the cats and dogs. However, they do seem to maintain some of their primitive behavior back in the wild since Zelda, a hair grooming chimp, is seen looking for bugs in her client's hair.
- As You Know: Early in the movie, Armando goes into detail about Caesar's origins... to Caesar, for the benefit of anyone who didn't remember or see the last movie.
- Big Bad: Governor Breck.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The apes wear different jumpsuits depending on their species: chimps wear green, gorillas wear red and orangutans wear yellow. This had also been shown in the original film and Beneath the Planet of the Apes, but here it's revealed that this tradition was started by their human masters, and not by the apes themselves.
- Covering for the Noise: Armando tries stating that he was the one who shouted "LOUSY HUMAN BASTARDS!" as while Caesar did so. The police instruct Armando to scream it again, but they can tell Armando sounded nothing like Caesar.
- Darker and Edgier: Compared to the prior movies. They had serious subject matter, but action and some humor. This movie is much bleaker and darker.
- Defiant to the End: Breck just stares at the apes as they were about to kill him. He even goes as far as to rationalize what he's done to the apes, saying that enslaving and anthropomorphizing them helped them evolve out of their primitive, barbaric state. Caesar angrily gives him the Death Glare that apes never asked to be civilized.
- Dewey Defeats Truman: The movie was released in 1972, the same year Taylor and his crew from the original were supposed to set out for an interstellar mission in their futuristic spaceship.
- Didn't Think This Through:
MacDonald: Caesar! Caesar, this is not how it was to be!
- A hair salon and its clients let a chimp do hair grooming. She hunts for bugs to eat in a woman's hair and in the process ruins her hair. What did they expect?
- By freeing Caesar, MacDonald led to The End of the World as We Know It.
Caesar: In your view or mine?
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The movie was filmed just as The '60s were ending, but with the streets still filled with violent riots over Vietnam and Civil Rights.
- Driven to Suicide: Armando.
- Extinct in the Future: Cats and dogs went extinct thanks to a mysterious disease, leaving apes to become the pets and servants of mankind.
- Electric Torture: Caesar is tortured to make him admit he can talk. MacDonald, after watching it for a moment, leaves, apparently sickened. Governor Breck then shows he has an order for Caesar's execution, so he decides to just turn it on again Up to Eleven and electrocute him. But MacDonald, after leaving, goes to the utility room and turns off the power. Caesar is smart enough to fake his own death by torture, then later escapes.
- Evil Is Hammy: Governor Breck.
- Five Rounds Rapid: Played very straight with how the humans fight the apes, no matter how bad things get for the humans, they never go to anything more dangerous than riot police with rifles and shotguns.
- Focus Group Ending: The movie was always going to end with the apes beginning their takeover, but originally, Breck was going to be beaten to death—a definitive demonstration about the circle of hatred. However, following a preview screening, the ending was slightly changed, with a few editing tricks and Roddy McDowall dubbing in new dialogue.
- Foreshadowing: "Caesar. A king."
- Gone Horribly Right: The humans wanting the apes to be smart enough to perform various tasks blew up in their faces.
- History Repeats: MacDonald, who is a descendant of African slaves, sees the apes enslaved and exploited for labor work as the United States going back to the 1860s and before.
- Humans Are Bastards: Just about everywhere in this movie, though it's Armando being Driven to Suicide that truly cinches it for Caesar.Caesar: LOUSY HUMAN BASTARDS!
- Identical Grandson: Roddy McDowall plays Caesar here, and in all the follow-ups.
- Ironic Echo: When Caesar ordered to have the Apes kill Breck, Lisa uttered "N... no".
- I Was Named "My Name": Caesar [a talking ape] is pretending to be unable to speak; his owner lets him "choose his own name" by opening a reference book and pointing to a random word. Caesar points to the word Caesar.Governor Breck: Caesar. A king.
- Job-Stealing Apes: The job employers makes apes do all the blue-collar and labor work so that they don't have to pay salaries to humans to do so, resulting in Luddite-esque strikes happening. Though it can be inferred the reason why the out-of-work humans aren't trying to help the apes escape from slavery in any shape or form is because the fruits of the apes' labor flows to them and so they benefit from it.
- Kill Them All: In a state of a Villainous Breakdown from the ape riots, Breck ordered the revolting apes that are in the control room with them to be killed.Breck: SHOOT THEM!! SHOOT THEM ALL!!
- Meaningful Name: Caesar. Which also helps explain why later apes bear Romanesque names.Breck: Caesar. A king.
- Misplaced Wildlife: Caesar hid himself in a cage full of orangutans. But one of Governor Breck's subordinates learns of this since "there are no chimpanzees in Borneo".
- Morality Chain:
- Armando was the only human Caesar ever cared for. His death motivates him to rebel.
- Lisa develops into this, talking Caesar out of killing The Governor and purposing peace among the apes and the humans.
- Not So Different: Between Caesar and MacDonald.
- Only Sane Man: Armando and MacDonald.
- Pay Evil unto Evil:MacDonald: Violence prolongs hate, hate prolongs violence. By what right are you spilling blood?
Caesar: By the slave's right to punish his persecutors.
- Properly Paranoid: After the last movie, Armando was questioned about Cornelius and Zira's child. While he talked his way out of immediate trouble, there was always lingering doubt among authorities that he was harboring their son.
- Protagonist Journey to Villain: The film was originally supposed to end with Caesar finally Jumping Off the Slippery Slope; he allows the gorillas bludgeon Breck to death with their rifles, then gets a genuine Kick the Dog moment by killing MacDonald. See Focus Group Ending above.
- Revenge Before Reason: As MacDonald points out, Caesar's gone mad with power and is too driven by anger and desire of vengeance against the humans to realize that war is the last thing the apes need.
- Shared Family Quirks: Caesar appears to have picked up the habit of shouting/talking in the presence of humans who fear and hunt down talking apes back from his mother Zira.
- Stable Time Loop: Averted: in the timeline Caesar's parents are from, apes became responsive to human speech "in less than two centuries" and turned the tables after "three more centuries" and were led by an ape named Aldonote . Here this all happens within about 10 years and they're led by Caesar. The revised ending indicates that Caesar might move ape society towards a more peaceful attitude towards humans than Aldo would have. This is expanded upon a bit in Battle for the Planet of the Apes, the next film in the series.
- Suddenly SHOUTING!: Caesar, who was about to kill Breck for his Motive Rant, instead he ordered the apes to drag him outside."Go. GO!!!!!"
- Time Skip: As noted earlier, 20 years have passed since the last movie.
- Title Drop: Almost.Caesar: Tonight, we have seen... the birth... of the Planet of the Apes!
- Token Good Teammate: MacDonald works for Breck and is quite disgusted with how apes are treated. He ends up saving Caesar's life.
- Turned Against Their Masters: The ape takeover happens in this movie. Which Governor Breck fears.
- 20 Minutes into the Future: Set in 1991, filmed in 1972.
- Villainous Breakdown: Breck when the apes are cutting down the steel gate sealing him and his associates. This makes him realize that apes are beginning to successfully subjugate humans as the dominant species on the planet as they are now both physically and intellectually superior.Breck: NO! But how? HOW?!! THEY DON'T HAVE THE INTELLIGENCE TO USE SUCH TOOLS! IF WE LOSE THIS BATTLE, THAT'S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT! WE WILL HAVE PROVED OURSELVES INFERIOR, WEAK! AND ALL THOSE GROVELING COWARDS WHO ARE ALIVE WHEN THE BATTLE IS OVER WILL BE THE WEAKEST OF ALL! THIS WILL BE THE END OF HUMAN CIVILIZATION, AND THE WORLD WILL BELONG TO A PLANET OF APES!
- Wham Line: Lisa's "No!" due to her talking for the first time.