Alright, so I know it’s been quite
awhile since I’ve gone back and watched an older movie on here. This
has kind of turned into an unofficial ‘new release’ review blog, but
I’m going back to the roots of the blog with this one. I got the
sudden urge to watch (for the first time) Planet of the Apes the
other day, based almost solely on the fact that Rod Serling co-wrote
the script, and I’ve been watching a bunch of Twilight Zone recently
(because it’s probably the best show ever made). After finally taking
in this movie, I think it’s safe to say that it’s a new favorite when
it comes to well-written adventure movies with more to say than
“Here’s a set piece, and here’s another set piece, buy our toys!”
Planet of the Apes paved the way for the ‘smart blockbuster’, and
frankly did it better than most still do to this day.
One of my favorite things about Planet
of the Apes is how basic and straightforward the plot is. Astronauts
left earth. Crash on alien planet. Woah, the planet is run by apes!
That’s basically it, but if you have Rod Serling write your movie,
things won’t be as black and white as an old Twilight Zone episode.
The writers and director Franklin J. Schaffner utilize this setup
(that sounds inherently goofy, for sure) to really say something
about humanity. Serling brought his views on the cold war (going on
at the time he wrote it) into this movie, and it wouldn’t exist
without that context.
Another great thing about Planet of the
Apes is the acting talent. Of course, there’s Charlton Heston,
leading the pack, and while I’ve never seen him in anything before
this, he’s pitch perfect as Taylor (or Bright Eyes, as he’s later
called). He has a cockiness and confidence that falls just barely
short of being a narcissist, and it keeps him alive throughout the
movie as he’s enslaved and put on trial by the apes. Aside from
Heston, all of the main ‘ape’ actors/actresses are great as well,
with Zira and Cornelius (Taylor’s scientifically-minded ape allies)
the clear standouts. Maurice Evans as Dr. Zaius can’t be discounted
either though, as his character is essentially the antagonist, but
once everything is revealed near the end, is actually incredibly
sympathetic. I was almost on his side in the last 10-15 minutes of
*SPOILERS FOR THIS PARAGRAPH* Speaking
of the last 10-15 minutes of the movie; man, that ending. I had
always heard that Planet of the Apes had a ‘twist’ ending, and funny
enough, I saw the 2001 Tim Burton version in theaters (which had a
garbage version of the same twist, but bad, because Tim Burton). It
was still incredibly effective, even though I sort of knew it was
coming. The idea that 1. Taylor wasn’t even on an alien planet, and
2. Humanity had essentially destroyed themselves, leaving the apes to
evolve and conquer the earth, totally knocked me out. I’m sure that
entire concept was Serling’s mystical touch. The whole movie feels
like an extended Twilight Zone episode, anyway because of it.
So that’s it for Planet of the Apes.
I’m actually writing this as I’m about to watch ‘Beneath the Planet
of the Apes’ because I can’t get enough of this world. Actually, I’m
surprised I didn’t really mention the ‘reboot’ series currently going
on. I’m a big, big fan of what Matt Reeves and Andy Serkis are doing
with those, and can’t wait to see more of it. I’m just totally
engrossed in this original vision right now, as you can probably
tell. I’m thinking I’ll watch the whole original series and write
some thoughts on each one over the next week or two, so as always,
check back soon and thanks for reading!