Welcome back! I told you they would be coming quickly and here we are again for another review in the Summer Film Challenge 2012: Apocalypse Edition. This time, Ryan and I knock another classic of the list and turn our attention to one of the all-time sci-fi greats: Planet of the Apes.
Now, it is EXTREMELY important that I say this before you read the review. Planet of the Apes is an extremely popular film and has been referenced countless times in pop culture. It has been parodied by Mel Brooks and expanded upon by six films over the past 40 years. Thus, it is very difficult to come at this film without it having been spoiled for you. If by some miracle you have avoided hearing how this film works, PLEASE DON’T READ THIS REVIEW!!!!! Seriously. This is a film that truly defines what it means for a film to be spoiled, so please don’t make me the guy who ruins it for you. So beware, for **THERE WILL BE SPOILERS**
First, a quick (and unnecessarily snarky) summary of the plot. Because Charlton Heston is bored with earth women, he signs up for a space mission involving Light-speed travel experiments. His team crash lands on an alien planet (earth) where they find Apes lording over Humans. Heston survives a “hunt” and, after a brief (plot device) neck injury heals, he recovers the ability to speak, which confounds the Apes and starts a religious inquiry into the whole thing. With an oppressive Minister of Science after him, Heston and some rogue Apes run off to seek proof that something (humans) existed before Apes, and ultimately discovers that, surprise! This was earth all along.
Let’s jump into this by looking at the large elephant in the room that has a big redacted spoiler written on it’s side. It is going to be a real challenge for me to review this film because it was so thoroughly spoiled for me that I couldn’t get a very good read on it. It is nearly impossible for a film that is almost entirely determined by the reveal at the end to be seen when that spoiler is known. I knew going in how it ended so all through the film, I was seeing every little sign they gave us that this was the case.
I come from a world where Rise of the Planet of the Apes informed me that Caesar is the great Ape who set forth their society, and I had pieced enough together from Spaceballs and other references to understand what the major twist was at the end. The trouble is that, because I was aware of the end game, I cannot fully tell when they are blatantly handing the answer to me on purpose and when that is a mistake. I felt the solution was really obvious from the beginning and thus had a very hard time convincing myself that it was an alien planet to begin with. So yes it was spoiled for me, but the end game felt really obvious so I don’t really know what to say about that.
Let me shift my perspective to the things that I was able to judge objectively. First let me say that the science doesn’t make much sense to me. I understand the theory of relativity only vaguely so the concept that traveling at light speed would cause one to age differently does not compute in my brain. However, the one that really doesn’t make sense is that, because of an air leak, the woman traveling with the team, who is half their age, somehow ages much faster than them. That part makes no sense and it is only because that happens so briefly at the beginning that I can accept it and move on.
The real meat of the film is a direct and slightly heavy handed examination of the relationship between Science and Religion. Not so subtly critiquing the early church’s foreboding about scientific discovery, I found the issues they raised to be valid ones if not being overly dramatic about them. However, some elements I found to be rather silly such as one important moment when the Ape tribunal recreates the See/Hear/Speak No Evil pose to demonstrate their opposition to the proposed evolutionary theory of Apes descending from Man… 😐 haha. I see what you did there….
As I said, I like what they brought up, but the way they did it was just over the top and at times extremely caricatured to the point of silliness. At one point I was inwardly screaming at the Ape guards because they sit on their horses for a solid two minutes watching Heston dialogue with Dr. Zaius instead of shooting the human then and there. Granted, I was inwardly screaming at Heston the whole time for going about that whole situation so poorly. But then again, every good sci-fi story needs the one character you love as a bad boy but whom you slightly question for how they became a pilot in the first place, and that is exactly who Heston is. He is the over-the-top space cowboy who somehow convinced NASA that he could lead an intergalactic mission aboard a highly technical piece of machinery. So yeah for that. 🙂
I am being a real downer on this film when I really did enjoy it. At first I thought the prosthetics to make the Apes looked silly but over time I began to really respect the actors underneath for bringing forth the emotions with their eyes and making themselves believable characters. And the technical side was really great too – the cinematography great, score good, and visual style fun. All in all, I would say that Planet of the Apes is like a more blunt version of 2001: Space Odyssey. It critiques the roles and actions of humanity while being a fun and engaging story. If you are willing to distill the heavy-handedness of the message, I think you will really enjoy it. It is indeed a classic and any lover of classic cinema should give this film a try. I just hope you can see it without it having been spoiled for you.
Final Rating: 8//10
Sorry! This is the only good version I could find on youtube.
Welp, there you go. Another great film down and plenty more to go in the coming weeks. Let me know what you thought of this film or of my review in the comments below, and be sure to check out the podcast Ryan and I did on it:
I’ve got more reviews coming your way so stay tuned! Thanks!