I just have time to dash off a quick spoiler and nitpick of the 1968 sci-fi classic Planet of the Apes for this week’s blog. It’s all about being able to suspend one’s disbelief. The audience has to be able to go along with the idea that apes can speak. If the movie can’t get its audience over that hump, it’s going to fail. Planet of the Apes did manage to get the viewers on board and, so, it was a big hit.
BUT! My pedantic nature is compelling me to pick away at this one.
Everyone in the film does a fine job. Charlton Heston is great as the cynical astronaut who finds himself on such a topsy turvy planet. Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, and Maurice Evans make terrific science-minded apes and Linda Harrison as Nova looks pretty hot. (Nova may be a mute savage, but she stills manages to shave her legs and armpits. Good to know personal grooming habits are important to hot savages.) The make-up effects are top notch, especially for 1968. And Jerry Goldsmith’s musical score is fantastic!
I really do like the movie. It’s terrific entertainment.
So, here’s the pedantry (and the spoilers): Heston plays Taylor, a cynical astronaut sent out into deep space with three other explorers. They put themselves in suspended animation and awaken after their craft has crash landed on a strange new world. They discover the female member of the crew had died some time earlier when they were all suspended. Damn.
The remaining members of the expedition set out to explore their new home. There are plenty of similarities to earth on this planet. The planet has the same atmosphere as earth. They discover the same kind of plants as on earth. There are birds and horses and people. Those people don’t speak, but they are still human.
They discover that there are apes on this planet. The apes dress in clothes. They can ride horses. They carry rifles. And they can speak!
They speak ENGLISH! What are the odds an alien species would speak English?! But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Taylor gets separated from his crew mates and he temporarily loses the ability to speak. (His regaining his speech leads to one of the greatest moments in cinematic history.) He is captured and is taken in by two scientist chimpanzees. Taylor is thought to be a threat and a freak once he regains his speech, so the leaders of the ape community decide he must be destroyed.
Taylor escapes and is able to learn that the planet had once been inhabited by humans who were far advanced to the present day dominant species.
He gains his freedom and he and the sexy savage ride off into the sunset to discover his destiny.
Before I nail the pedantry, let’s review: Taylor is now many centuries in the future from when he left home and he thinks he’s on another planet far away from earth. This planet has the same atmosphere, same plant life, same birds. It has horses and humans and apes. The apes speak. The language they speak is English.
Are we together on this?
Taylor and Nova are having a pleasant horse ride when they stumble across something big. They find the ruins of the Statue of Liberty. And it’s only then when Taylor finally realizes he’s on earth. A little slow on the uptake there, Bright Eyes.