Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Planet of the Apes


  This is undeniably a classic movie. However with all the advances in technology since freakin' 1968, I think it's safe to say it'd be hard pressed to find an accepting audience in today's world. The movie is a good one, no doubt. Full of wide-eyed spectacle, some thrilling set pieces, and some really good acting. Planet of the Apes is also unfortunately, criminally dated. I can't imagine the youth of today not laughing at the incredibly stilted ape prosthetics. Which could alienate whole audiences. I can't say I grew up with this movie, I first saw it when I was 12 or 13. Which was only 6 or 7 years ago. Yet, I loved it. I took it seriously. I was capable of appreciating what it was, and when it came from. Thus, I enjoyed it alot.

  Sci-fi spectacle nowadays, outside of the indie market, usually has someone like Will Smith heading it, and David Goyer behind the scenes somewhere. While this isn't necessarily bad, I believe that most science fiction movies nowadays, have lost their sense of grandeur and scale, and most certainly their sense of importance. My point is honestly that Sci-Fi has become a genre all about special effects. Which is why a modern audience might very well reject Planet of the Apes on it's own merit. It's not impressive compared to anything we have nowadays. Not visually at least. And while I do believe it was certainly ahead of it's time for the 60's, it's no longer that advanced anymore.

  However, if you can appreciate older movies without judging them next to today's standard, then you might enjoy Planet of the Apes. A movie so indelibly ingrained into society and pop culture that we're still making movies in the franchise. (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is coming out in 2014 as a sequel to 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a rather successful reboot.)  However there is more to 'Apes than the makeup effects and prosthetics. The movie has a sense of old school charisma. Due in no small part to star Charlton Heston (playing the eponymous 'Taylor). He plays off of his co-stars wonderfully. Kim Hunter and Roddy McDowall are simply wonderful as the benevolent apes, Zira and Cornelius. Who also seem to be the only ones on Heston's side in this freakish world.

  For the sake of anyone who hasn't seen Planet of the Apes, it's about a team of astronauts who're sent into deep space, looking for another habitable world I believe. Yet, thousands of years have passed while they were in hypersleep and they crash land on a foreign planet... that is ruled by apes. Walking, talking, apes.  With their own laws and society, and everything. Humans also exist on this planet, yet they can't articulate any better than a primate you might find at your local zoo. So imagine the shock when the apes are confronted with this man who can articulate as well as any of them. The catch? His throat, and subsequently his vocal chords, were injured early on. Which conveniently prevents him from speaking for most of the movie. Yet when he finally does... hot damn. There's a reason why that line is so iconic. Heston's delivery is as chilling now as it was back in 1968.

  The movie is pretty exciting in my opinion, and some actually criticize it's pacing, saying it's rather slow for today's audiences. I think everything is too slow for today's audiences. I don't think that's a valid critique to level at the movie. The movie opens with a spaceship crash landing on the planet, then the astronauts have to traverse the alien terrain and end up smack in the middle of a hunt, in which apes on horseback, with guns, are violently pursuing a herd of wild humans. The movie then settles in to it's main plot, which is Taylor trying to convince the apes that he's not from this world. He's faced with execution and being lobotomized around every corner. He stages multiple escape attempts, and in the end is granted a small iota of leeway to prove his statements which culminates in another skirmish, and concludes with a most shocking ending. Which despite being plastered all over posters and box art, is still quite shocking in context.

  In conclusion, if your idea of good sci-fi is the Star Wars prequels or i,Robot... then it's a good possibility you won't enjoy Planet of the Apes. However, if you are someone who enjoys the original Star Trek TV series, and movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey, then yes, odds are you'll have a blast with this movie.

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