I was supposed to post my review for Planet of the Apes yesterday, but the scope of the article kinda grew way beyond what I was expecting, so it’s going to be delayed until I deem it ready. I’m still counting this post for Sunday, because I definitely wrote something – it’s just going to take a while. I’ll update this post with the review when it’s finished.
***Dec 19 2016***
My enthusiasm to do a long form exegesis on Planet of the Apes has waned pretty significantly. I don’t want to put it off forever thinking that I’ll get to it eventually, so here’s the most recent draft with light editing.
I’m a huge fan of Planet of the Apes. It’s heralded as a classic of science fiction, and for good reason. Having just rewatched it, I think it’s safe to say that it holds up well. In fact, the main theme is still pretty resonant today.
In general, developed countries are moving away from religion. This is especially noticeable in more metropolitan areas like San Francisco. People aren’t usually shunned for their religion, but it’s not the pillar that holds up the community like it would be in other places.
Planet of the Apes takes a different tack:
It sets up a backwards society that accepts some scientific progress, but only within the limited confines of what their religion deems acceptable. *Insert evolution/climate change commentary here.* Charlton Heston plays the devil’s advocate – learning new things is, in fact, good. Denying reality and outlawing it because it disagrees with your beliefs is bad. Then the ending turns everything on its head.
Even though the ending has long been spoiled, it still works as an effective punch to the gut – despite the draconian rules of the new society, it turns out to be a reaction to the mistakes of the previous one – uninhibited scientific progress without a moral compass. The leadership of ape society has long known the history of humanity, and it’s grim: mankind wiped out its own civilization, likely by atomic warfare. It’s a hell of a sucker punch: the movie spends a large part of its running time having Charlton Heston point out all the flaws in an oppressive theocracy, only to find out that the alternative is no society, because humans fucked it up. We’re pretty good at doing that.