Planet of the Apes is a highly disconcerting tale despite the rubber visages of the apes which feel quite tacky at times. However, they are so unnatural that they seem to still work within the context of the film. This Sci-Fi classic also really works on another level, because it is an inversion of our accepted dogma. Yet it still shares a degree of similarity to our reality making it a frightening dystopian world to take in.
The story begins calmly enough in outer space as a group of human explorers circle the solar system with the fate of earth up in the air. We assume the worst. After spending time in hibernation the crew finds that their ship is making a crash landing for an unknown reason so the three surviving passengers bailout. There’s Taylor (Charlton Heston), Landon and Dodge and though they do not always see eye to eye, they begin to explore the vast expanses of the seemingly lifeless world for any sign of life.
As time passes, they finally come across human life: a very primitive human society that has no form of communication. They assume they can run this society soon enough with their advanced intellect. However, what they were not counting on were the apes who have advanced far beyond the animalistic humans. Apes are the one with language, culture, weapons, and a whole stratified society.
Taylor and his shipmates are hunted down like common animals along with the rest of the mute natives. What ensues is a rather terrifying story following Taylor as he tries to prove his intellect only to be beat up and caged like a common zoo attraction. It feels strange watching the apes speak in common English as they laugh contemptuously at the stupidity of human lifeforms.
However, a pair of scientists (played by Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter) become interested in Taylor and he must fight an uphill battle to prove he is different. It is no easy task with beatings, chains, and court trials. The society is so set in its ways that no one will believe that a human actually can have intelligence. It is utterly impossible. This gives context for the famous insult that Taylor hurls at the apes. It’s the first time a mere human has addressed an ape. Needless to say, they don’t take it well.
Taylor has enough grit and stubbornness to get what he wants, but only when he has gotten away does he really understand what has happened and where he is. How he didn’t realize it before is a puzzle. Then again, he probably was not the only one blinded. Planet of the Apes works on a number of levels, although it can feel a bit corny. First off, the music of Jerry Goldsmith makes every sequence feel all the more unnerving. The lack of CGI in the panoramic images is a breath of fresh air. I will assume that those cinematic shots were actually real, and they would undoubtedly look fantastic on the big screen. Amazing! Furthermore, Charlton Heston does a decent job as the cynical explorer Taylor and as I noted early on he got the girl. Just not the one I expected.
There are a lot of sequels/prequels to be watched and I will certainly try and get around to them some day because this film was definitely enjoyable. Without a question.