‘Somewhere in the universe there has to be something better than man’. - Charlton Heston as Astronaut Taylor.
Two fine sci-fi films clashed in 1968; one becomes an instant box office hit, the other didn’t get same response instead it confused and bored the audience to the limit. The later one is Kubrick’s masterpiece ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (which I already discussed on same place few days ago) and the successful one of that year is ‘Planet of the Apes’. What Charlton Heston said directly while traveling in his space ship in the first scene of the film- “Seen from out here everything seems different. Time bends. Space is…boundless. It squashes the man’s ego. I feel lonely.” Kubrick left the same message to audience’s interpretation in 2001. Like other critics, I don’t want to scratch any further comparison between two since there is no reason nor rhyme to compare Kubrick with anyone. So I better enjoyed the film in its own way without much fuss and like to claim that this one too is one of the well made sci-fi classic of the bygone era.
Astronaut Taylor (Heston) along with two other astronauts crash lands on an unknown planet ruled by highly evolved apes that use primitive herbivorous mute human race for experimentation and sport. Soon Taylor finds himself among the hunted, his life in the hand of benevolent chimpanzee scientist Dr Zira trying to prove that the man can be domesticated. With her help Taylor escapes. Only to make startling discovery.
“Some apes are created more equal than others”, said Heston in one of the scene and it gives clue of Orwellian satire in his brilliant fable ‘Animal Farm’ (a must read for all literature lover). Some of the dialogues are sharp and thought provoking with irony pitted against the theory of evolution. Apart of usual entertainment, it raises many ideas regarding- science, religion and human evolution. When ‘Origin of Species’ was published it was regarded as heresy and Darwin was called Satan for challenging biblical faith of Christianity by the religious authority and that point is nicely interwoven in the film. The ending is really eye opener and unusual, mandatory material to think hard about being human.
Although the film was produced with meager budget compared to other studio back up epics, the set design, make up remained noticeable material for the contemporary filmmakers of that era. I do agree that the make up of the apes looks quite amusing and ridiculous compared to today’s CGI back up ones used by Tim Burton to recreate this classic in 2001, but mind well that it’s a film made 40 years ago and that’s why it was well appreciated with honorary Oscar for Best Make up Award that year.