Movie review: Planet of the Apes
Planet of the Apes
Starring: Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter
Dir. Franklin J. Schaffner
Yeah, I know, Planet of the Apes (1968) was released over 40 years ago and therefore isn’t “relevant” anymore to today’s youth. Well, fuck you, today’s youth, because if you’re gonna go see Rise of the Planet of the Apes (and you know you will), you better know where the whole thing began.
Now, if you haven’t seen Planet of the Apes, you can pop over to your local Blockbuster (while they’re still around) or hop onto Netflix (you know you spend more time on there than you like to admit) and watch it for less than $10. Even if you don’t plan on seeing Rise of the Planet of the Apes this year, go watch the original anyway.
Planet of the Apes holds up remarkably well over 40 years later. Sure, the makeup on the apes looks kitschy now, but back in the day, this was groundbreaking stuff. Everyone knows the basic premise of the film by now: George Taylor (played by Charlton Heston) and a group of astronauts get lost in space and 3,000 years later they ostensibly land on a new planet where apes are the intelligent beings and humans are nothing more than animals. Of course, it turns out that Taylor and his crew have just landed back on Earth after 3,000 years and the apes have just out-evolved humans.
The film has some great iconic moments, from Taylor’s “take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape”, to the iconic shot of a screaming Taylor at the feet of the destroyed Statue of Liberty. But, what’s really important isn’t Heston’s iconic performance, but the film’s overarching critique of creationism. The film lays out an ape mythology, which explains how apes came to rule the planet, not unlike contemporary creationist theology. Taylor and the ape scientists (whom the theocratic ape overlord dismisses as “blasphemers”) scoff at the ape mythology as crude and unfounded. The final shot of Taylor screaming at the feet of Lady Liberty confirms the unfounded nature of the mythology. The apes created it to make sense of the world, but they know, in their heart of hearts, it simply isn’t true.