Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Planet of the Apes


So I'm a bit behind schedule, but I did get to watch Planet of the Apes yesterday, the beginning of my Ape-ril Madness Marathon. I'm not going to do a full review or analysis here, since that's been done by many, and often better than me. I did really like it, though.

There's something great about '60's and '70's science fiction. In the days before Star Wars made science fantasy king, sci-fi was about ideas. There was a fantastic Filmspotting marathon that included such movies as Soylent Green, Silent Running, and Logan's Run. I love The Forbin Project and The Omega Man as well, not to mention the monumental 2001: A Space Odyssey. What made all of these movies so fascinating was the way they were about something. What if? What if we run out of food? What if we eliminated old people? What if a computer ran the world? You finish watching any of these movies and you have a lot more to talk about than, "Man, wasn't that explosion cool?"

So, what is Planet of the Apes about? Sure, everybody knows that it's about apes running the world in a crazy, upside-down future world. (As an aside, it really pisses me off that they print the spoiler ending of the movie on the box cover. Yes, yes, everyone knows it's Earth. But can't you, for once, pretend? Let people discover it fresh!) But there's so much more to it than that. Throughout the movie there are parallels to so many philosophical conflicts. The ethical treatment of animals, zoos, prejudice, class struggle, science vs. religion, evolution, the nature of intelligence, and the typical '60's favorites, anti-establishment and young vs. old. Some of it is overt, some of it is subtle; best of all, there aren't really answers-- it just is. That's just great fodder for conversation.

I also really liked the pacing-- very slow. It's 30 minutes into the film before you see the first ape (the big reveal/reversal). It's 30 minutes after that when Taylor finally gets his voice back and shouts that famous line (another reversal, this time for the apes). I loved the sets and costumes, and especially the little touches. The apes' shoes have little thumb-pockets on the side. This is barely even noticeable on screen, but it's there. Fantastic.

Another thing I liked, and this is touched on in the article I linked to before, is that they speak and write English. I like it because it takes a standard sci-fi trope that we all accept without thinking (that we can communicate with other species), and turns it into a plot point. We, as the audience, just accept that they're communicating because that's how it is in a sci-fi movie. But when we discover it's Earth, it suddenly makes that a huge clue that was staring us in the face the whole time. I'm probably not describing that very well, but oh well.

I don't see how they could make a sequel to this, let alone four. I know nothing about the rest of them, but I'm pretty sure Mr. Heston doesn't return. Does that mean that his character doesn't either? I don't know, but I'm eager to find out! I'm about to pop in the next one right now.

Oh, and one last thing, just because I love it:

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