Everyone knows the story: Charlton Heston and his crew crash-land on a mysterious planet, ruled over by a sophisticated, intelligent ape society, and where humans are the dirty animals. But, what makes Planet of the Apes such a well-regarded classic? That was the question I went into this, my first viewing of this classic, asking; I knew the plot, and the stature of the film, thanks to its enduring popularity, so upon seeing it myself for the first time, I wanted to try and intuit why it was so enduring and popular. More than halfway through, I realized I had forgotten this question of mine; I was too wrapped up in what was happening. If anything, that’s why this has stood the test of time; it’s a great idea, a damn fine story, and a highly engaging one at that.
The story is more than just a sci-fi tale of Heston’s Taylor finding himself in a world where he is suddenly the bottom of the hierarchy. It’s also a social critique of the class system of many cultures, even America’s, and of how we treat those we deem to be lower than ourselves, including animals. The film takes a very rudimentary approach to the storytelling, but given the story they are trying to tell, the most basic approach is likely to be the best approach. There’s also some moments that kinda stretch credibility a bit; for instance, once the crew encounters a bunch of humans, no one thinks to make the connection that whatever space pebble they happened to land on just happens to have humans on it, a logical step I would’ve made even if I hadn’t known the film’s final twist. But, I guess, to argue semantics about the plot is to be rather nitpicky; given the universe the film sets up and keeps up, there’s really very little to be upset about.
So, now that I’ve seen it, I’m left to ponder the hype, the legacy, and the lasting impact this picture made on audiences then and now. All in all, I’m glad this film was made. It was a staggering achievement in make-up & prosthetics, costume design, and production value, and it is made even more remarkable by the fact that it all works. Even the overdubbing, which I assume was used to help the actors deliver the lines through their heavy facial prosthetics, was barely noticeable; indeed, I used the word “assume” before because I couldn’t discern whether the actors were actually saying their lines, or if they were in fact overdubbed, so kudos for that. I’d say more about Heston, the ape actors, and the script, but everything is just an ingredient thrown into the melting pot to make the beef stew of the film’s storyline, and for me, everything was mighty tasty. I’ve happily checked another one off my “I can’t believe I’ve yet to see this film” list, and if you haven’t checked this one off yours, you won’t be disappointed in doing so.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10