Planet of the Apes (1968)


Brave, foolish, and simply majestic in parts, Planet of the Apes achieves if nothing else the questioning of prejudice. If often times it all seems a bit dumb, by the end you feel a bit hoaxed. In fact, it was ahead of its time in a way Interstellar (2014) is not. The modern remakes don’t deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as this thing. By comparison it’s a prescient piece of genius. If you’ve ever wondered how evolution could work in reverse, you will concur after watching.

A group of astronauts (three men to one woman, the sly choice a subversion of polygyny) are sent on a deep space expedition, the apparent objective of which is as much to prove the theory of time condensation at near-light speed as it is to explore (and conquer) outer space, expanding “our” (American) empire. Shit happens and they crash on an unknown or unplanned planet; the female trooper dies along the way, her corpse a prescient ape-like effigy, leaving the men to perhaps find alien mates to start up the new population. Soon they discover life, and a species of mute hominids, but are then captured by talking, horse riding, gun wielding apes, the apparent kings of the food chain on this upside down planet.

The spine of it all is a tired diatribe of a kind of Victorian renunciation of scientific heresies, the dumbness of which is only eclipsed by its sheer audacity as a red herring. And then there’s the droll mimesis, smug at times, used as short cuts to grand ideas instead of straight exposition, perfectly suited as it happens to Heston’s theatrical delivery of the same.

But in the end this is just part of the sucker punch, especially to the critic who mulls each detail, looking for weak points to expose the myth, to call out the prophet as a charlatan. Meanwhile, running with the thesis, it should have been obvious all along, and we (the critical audience) were gullible enough to be strung along. Much like the search for truth in the face of reality.