23 July 2017

Boning Up: Planet Of The Apes

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(Spoilers Everywhere!)

What's the story?

Charlton Heston plays an astronaut that crash lands on a mysterious planet that's ruled by what seems like a population of talking monkeys. At no point does anybody try to rule out the possibility of it simply being a modern day Manchester. The apes give Heston a load of shit. Heston gets away from the apes. Just as he's about to ride into the sunset he accidental stumbles across the Statue of Liberty and realises that he's on Earth and humans have fucked the planet up with bombs. He's probably also pretty gutted that he can't even actually visit the Statue of Liberty which is a shame considering he's accidentally gone all the way to visiting it.

What's the subtext?

This film is so crammed full of underlying messages that even fifty years later we're still writing about it. If you can resist the standard muscle memory to simply search for porn as soon as you see Google then I suggest you search for some of the essays and dissertations that have been written over the years for much more in depth information.

...But, considering this film came out at the height of the Cold War and ends with the lead character discovering that our species nuked themselves to death, I guess there's certainly an anti-bombing-the-fuck-out-of-everything message in there. The film also deals with class systems, with the various species of apes representing a different part of society. The gorillas are the right-wingers and military, the chimps are the intellectuals, and the orangutans basically run everything and so they're the politicians, lawyers and priests.. this is despite the fact that they're also gingers.

That simply leaves the humans that are treated as animals. We're hunted, enslaved, and experimented on. In many cases, this involves the apes lobotomising us which at the very least means that our species has gotten cleverer over the years because I've got at least a couple of friends in which you really wouldn't fucking need to bother. In the way humans are treated so badly by the ruling majority within this society, the film therefore also touches on racism... because white people really do need to see something happening to themselves before they realise that it might be a problem for others.

Finally, the film also touches upon the battle between science versus religion. The lead orangutan Dr. Zaius uses his position within society to use his religious beliefs to hold back scientific progression. Not only that but his religion is ultimately also revealed to be founded on bullshit, which is pretty cool considering how mad-bastard some of those God-bothering Americans can be. In fact, when this film came out, America was double-down on everybodies required love of God due to the communist Russia's happiness to embrace atheists to its cause. Perhaps then it might not be a surprise to discover that one of the script-writers for this film was on a McCarthy Blacklist for being a suspected communist sympathiser. So perhaps the real message of the Planet Of The Apes is that very occasionally a great movie will be made even when it is literally sticking two fingers up at every member of authority that's been tasked with preventing it... or perhaps those authorities were just too thick to see what a film about talking monkeys was really all about.

What's the best bit of the film?

Well, I think that it's obviously got to be the end of the film hasn't it? Charlton Heston is about to ride off into the sunset when he spots the destroyed statue of liberty and realises that humans have done their usual trick of fucking everything up. It's one of the greatest twists in cinema history. So shocking that it's on every DVD cover and poster for the film.. presumably because to witness it un-spoilt would blow your fucking mind.

However why have me explain the scene? This is what happened according to the great comedian Stewart Lee...

“The Original Planet of The Apes has an amazing, shock, surprise ending. What happens at the end of the original Planet of The Apes is it turns out that, on their planet, the apes have made an exact replica of the Statue of Liberty... And it's never explained why”

What's the worst bit of the film?

In honesty, I can't think of anything that I didn't like. At one point Charlton Heston goes skinny dipping and, as he dove into the lake I was worried that I might get a frame of the film in which his anus gives me a wink. Perhaps I feel a little uncomfortable with how Heston's character solves his problems by grabbing a gun too, considering he was a fairly vocal supporter of the NRA in real life. But I watch Polanski's films without bringing his personal life into them, so I suppose I can't be too mad about Heston's support for an organisation that's ultimately responsible for the deaths of so many school children and office workers every time some fruit-loop has a shitty day. So yeah.. just the skinny dipping I guess.

What's the best line?

Well.. there's plenty to choose from, which is probably why a fuck-tonne of this film's quotes turn up in some of the subsequent Planet of The Apes films in one form or another. However, simply because it's what I now shout when another human feels the urge to make some sort of physical contact with me, I guess I'll have to go with “Take your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape!”.

Is it actually worth a watch? 

Yes. Obviously. Now go fucking watch it!

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