Review of 'Planet of the Apes'

planet_of_the_apes.jpg 2000 years in the future, a spacecraft containing hibernating astronauts crashes onto a strange planet. The three survivors led by George Taylor (Charlton Heston) escape from the ship to find themselves in an inhospitable landscape. Exploring further they discover life then stumble across a primitive tribe of seemingly mute humans foraging in a field. They are surprised a short time later when a group of humanoid apes appear on horseback, hunting the humans. Taylor finds himself a prisoner of the apes, unable to talk due to injuries suffered in the hunt. Chimpanzee scientist Doctor Zira (Kim Hunter) is at odds with the establishment in wanting to study Taylor who soon gains her trust, convincing her of his intelligence using written notes. Eventually regaining his voice Taylor causes a great disturbance in the conservative religious ape community, convinced of their superiority. Taylor, Zira and her fiance Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) must fight to not only convince their society of the truth but must also battle for their future…

A classic Science Fiction film featuring the unique talents of Charlton Heston. A phenomenon when first released “Planet of the Apes” stands up reasonably well now with re-watching. Many of the interior sets are unconvincing but what is amazing to see is how the ape make-up still looks remarkably good, allowing the actors a great deal of freedom of expression which greatly helps bring the characters to life. The painstaking efforts of the filmmakers to make the prosthetics as realistic as possible really pay off with only the orangutans not entirely convincing.

The cast play the story extremely seriously and are utterly convincing in portraying their society and norms. The troubled Taylor played by Charlton Heston is nuanced and complicated, talking of never being desiring to be part of the society he left yet struggling to protect that same society when challenged by the apes. As always, Heston's acting is a bit heavy handed but he admirably handles the physically challenging role spending much of the film in little more than a piece of cloth. Here he is at the peak of his popularity and his self-assurance is very much in evidence on the screen, his dominance over his situation never entirely in doubt – It is not a question of whether or not he will escape his situation but rather when. His “get your hands off me you damned dirty ape” line as he is captured as well as his final speech after the big reveal on the beach are the among the most iconic lines in modern cinema - Say what you like about the acting you can't deny he has charisma.

The story seems simple but it is obvious there are hints of a complex society of which we only scratch the surface here. The obvious analogies to racial and ethnic tensions in modern society are self-evident but less obvious are the efforts of the elite to hide truth from the masses in the guise of protectionism. This is more than just a simple SF action flick, it is much more involved which is all the more astounding at how popular this film series went onto become.

Worth a serious look, Planet of the Apes is a landmark Science Fiction film prior to the dominance of Star Wars and other modern franchises. Perhaps a bit slow in pace for modern audiences the messages it contains and the questions it asks are just as relevant now as when it was made.

Rating: “Really good but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2019-05-06

Directed by: Franklin J. Schaffner

Studio: APJAC Productions

Year: 1968

Length: 112 minutes

Genre: Science Fiction