Wednesday, 29 August 2007

You Damn Dirty Ape!

I watched the original "Planet Of The Apes" for the first time ever on Monday. Once again I marvel at how I have reached this age without having seen a certain great movie or read a certain great novel (this week I'll be reading Jane Eyre), but there is something about "Planet Of The Apes" which is truly amazing. I expected it to be good, or possibly great, because of its reputation, because of the make-up effects, because of THAT final shot.

I didn't find any trace of it in the Wikipedia article (not that I think of Wiki as having the final word on the matter), but I couldn't help but wonder if it was seen as a controversial film when it was first released nearly forty years ago. The remake was controversial because it was just a bad film (and we won't say any more about it), but there was something about the original one when I saw it the other day that made me think "This film wouldn't get made today." It reels you in with a "B movie with a budget" kind of feel and look, and then all of a sudden you realise that not only is the film quite, quite serious about its subject but that it's also very, very intelligent as well - and has a great sense of humour too.

None of the humour is ever at the expense of the ape characters, but rather arises because they are thoughtful and expressive characters - in fact all of the characters come across as fully formed and three-dimensional. The sly smile on Zira's face as she offers an old man a sugar cube touched me, as did her statement at the end about Taylor's ugliness - if she, as his main friend in the ape community and one of the leading proponents on the value of humans, can't get past her casual prejudices what hope do humans really have in the apes' world?

The explanation of the final shot is even more haunting now: so many apes and other higher mammals are threatened with extinction today, it's doubtful that they have sufficient numbers to survive a planetary disaster that would threaten us, let alone rise up over man...

2 comments:

noisms said...

I agree that the film wouldn't be made today, but I think that's mostly because Hollywood has lost its creative ambition. The only really contraversial thing about Planet of the Apes is that it set out to be allegorical and iconic, and achieved it. Films don't try to do that these days: they strive to entertain, and move, and often do that very well, but they've lost the desire to say something urgent that Planet of the Apes and other films of that era had.

The remake was a sad confirmation of that, for me. It said absolutely nothing about the State of Humanity, and just tried to provide pulp entertainment (and couldn't even get that right).

Andrew Fry said...

I would rather watch the Simpsons musical parody "Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Want to Get Off", than watch the remake again. I was so looking forward to it. Tim Burton just off of Batman for goodness sake. But it just didn't have the soul of the first one. Great that you finally got a chance to see it. Of the many sequels, I believe Escape From the Planet of the Apes the best, (if I remember correctly).