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From Under A Rock: Planet of the Apes

July 8, 2017 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
9.3
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From Under A Rock: Planet of the Apes  

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This week we are reviewing one of my all-time favorite science fiction movies. While the recent Planet of the Apes films deserve a ton of praise, many may not realize that the original was a smart, groundbreaking film in its own right.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Michael chose Evil Dead II. This week Aaron takes Michael out from under the proverbial rock to show him Planet of the Apes.

Planet of the Apes
Released: April 3rd, 1968
Directed by: Franklin J. Schaffner
Written by: Michael Wilson and Rod Serling
Starring:
Charlton Heston as George Taylor
Roddy McDowell as Cornelius
Kim Hunter as Zira
Maurice Evans as Dr. Zaius
Linda Harrison as Nova

Aaron Hubbard: This is a request from Michael from way back, but with the much hyped War of the Planet of the Apes hitting us this month it felt like an appropriate time to review this classic.

Michael Ornelas: The opening had some moments that made me roll my eyes, but once they got to the planet, I was eating it up. This was a great pick, so let’s talk about it!
Characters
Characters That Feel Real
Aaron: If there’s one thing everyone knows Planet of the Apes for, it’s the prosthetic makeup work of John Chambers (who you might be familiar with if you’re an effects nut or have seen Argo). The makeup is… dated a bit, but the artistry still impresses me, particularly on Dr. Zaius. But what really makes these apes work is the writing; Zira, Cornelius, Zaius and even Lucius are fully realized characters. Charlton Heston has the charisma and star power to carry his largely silent role. It’s a collection of strong performances and makes the film age better than it has any right to.

Michael: The performances were awesome, and the apes were immaculately developed. The amount of dissension amongst the apes and differing opinions between Zira and Zaius gave this film a layer I feared it may not have had. It also took some pressure off Heston’s performance to carry the movie. The characterizations in the film were the driving force of the movie, followed by its themes, and lastly its visuals. All three were exceptionally strong.

Aaron: I am a firm believer that almost any other fault can be overlooked if a film has good characters. Apes may not have aged perfectly in terms of effects, but the characters have done very well.
Cage
Role Reversal
Michael: I think the first thing that really stood out to me in the film was watching the humans play the subjects of experimentation, just like monkeys are in real life. This role reversal proves very effective in questioning the morality of animal testing, and it also forces the audience to empathize with the character in the role typically reserved for the ape. I like it a lot as it allows us to hold a mirror up to humanity for anyone willing to dig a little (very little), and provides a fun surface-level sci-fi story regardless.

Aaron: The role reversal is central to this film, as it accentuates the film’s ability to satire humans by constantly reminding us of our basic instincts. I will say, if you are fond of the captive animal idea, you will need to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes as it explores the topic more thoroughly.

Michael: It manages to do that well by treating humans like animals but allowing them to prove that they’re intelligent. It allows the audience to stick up for humankind because we know the brilliance and capabilities of the human mind, and seeing us cast down and treated so primitively absolutely hits a nerve.
Jury
Science, Faith and Evolution
Aaron: Alright, I’m going to tread lightly here, since it’s been a hot-button issue that I am not always known for being sensitive about. But one of the central themes of this film is the battle between religion and scientific discovery, with evolution being considered blasphemy to the apes in spite of the evidence. Indeed, Dr. Zaius is shown to hinder science to protect the faith of his people. It isn’t a very flattering portrayal, but it’s an effective one in my book. And really, how could the film ignore the topic; its premise alone implies its support of the Theory of Evolution.

Michael: I really loved Zira and her pursuit of truth and scientific discovery. The conflict between religious and exploration for “other” explanations and answers to questions posed in religious texts is a fight as old as time, but it’s always fascinating to see the variations through which that story can be explored. I know which side of that rift I stand on, and I think that’s why movies like this appeal to me. It’s hard though to accept or consider something that challenges everything you know, so as a thematic element of the movie, it all makes sense to see what they apes are doing, even if it’s frustrating.

Aaron: I think it’s a bit sad that this aspect still seems so relevant. It’d be nice if this aspect felt like a relic of the past; to me, if there isn’t room in your religion to account for scientific fact and you need to oppress it, I feel like your faith isn’t big enough to be worth it. Just one man’s opinion anyway.

Ratings:
Michael: This was definitely a pretty slow-paced movie but it had so many interesting ideas, great performances, and stunning (for the time) prosthetic makeup effects, it’s hard to hold anything against it. I wish I didn’t know the ending before it happened.

A

Aaron: I love this movie, even if I can acknowledge that it’s a little slow, Heston is overacting, and the effects are a bit dated. What isn’t dated is the unique premise, well-written characters and smart script. This is science fiction the way I like it.

A

Michael: I’m not saying this jokingly: I genuinely want to rewatch the Mark Wahlberg version just to compare and contrast now.

Aaron: I won’t lie; the same thought went through my head. I may watch every Apes movie this month.

What is your favorite classic science fiction movie?

Next week:

Michael: I actually didn’t watch this movie all the way through for the first time until last year before the Netflix series dropped, but I loved it and I adore pretty much the whole cast, as I pretty closely follow the comedy scene.
Wet Hot
Aaron: I have no idea how to react to this one. Is it porn?

Michael: …no? It’s a summer camp comedy.

Are you excited for Ten Years Later when it hits Netflix next month?

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Check out our past reviews!
Mission: Impossible, They Live, Marvel’s Daredevil, The Silence of the Lambs, 12 Angry Men, The Usual Suspects, The Boondock Saints, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Iron Giant, Fargo, American Psycho, 28 Days Later, Frankenstein, Crank, The Godfather: Part II, American Beauty, Rocky, Alien, Spaceballs, Star Wars: Clone Wars, The Muppets Christmas Carol, Reservoir Dogs, Superman: The Movie, Lethal Weapon, Double Indemnity, Groundhog Day, The Departed, Breaking Bad, Shane, Glengarry Glen Ross, Blue Ruin, Office Space, The Batman Superman Movie: World’s Finest, Drive, Memoirs of a Geisha, Let the Right One In, Apocalypse Now, Aliens, The Incredible Hulk, A Clockwork Orange, Chicago, Seven, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, The Room, Chinatown, Jaws, Unforgiven, RoboCop, The Legend of Korra – Book One: Air, Ghostbusters, Spider-Man 2, Prometheus, Scarface, Gattaca, Monty Python & The Holy Grail, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Equilibrium, City of God, The Graduate, Face/Off, Snowpiercer, The Exorcist, Hellboy, Village of the Damned, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Idiocracy, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Fly (1986), Under the Skin, Die Hard, Dredd, Star Wars Holiday Special, A Christmas Story, Snakes on a Plane, The Big Lebowski, Bulworth, Raging Bull, Thank You for Smoking, John Wick, Mulholland Drive, The Karate Kid, Lucky Number Slevin, The Searchers, Black Dynamite, Labyrinth, Rick & Morty, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Abyss, Seven Samurai, Bio-Dome, Memento, L.A. Confidential, Tangled, T2: Judgment Day, Wonder Woman, The Way Way Back, Rebel Without a Cause, Predator, Before Sunrise, Evil Dead II, Planet of the Apes

Aaron Has Another Column!
Excited for Spider-Man: Homecoming? Check out my review of what is the best Spider-Man movie I’ve seen (so far): Spider-Man 2!

Aaron is now on Letterboxd!
Check me out here to see my star ratings for over 850 films. Recent reviews include The Social Network, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero.

9.3
The final score: review Amazing
The 411
If you love movies, especially science fiction, Planet of the Apes is one of those classic films you just have to see. It has a unique premise, the makeup is still remarkable, and the writing is timeless. The ending may be spoiled for everyone, but the journey is worth it.
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