For Reel

Planet of the Apes (1968)
July 30, 2016, 5:35 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
4 Stars
Planet of the Apes“You can’t trust the older generation,” is the sentiment oft-repeated in Planet of the Apes, marking a cultural divide that feels appropriate for both the sociopolitical landscape of the time and for Hollywood itself, which was starting to see the influence of the New Hollywood filmmakers who were challenging the very idea of what a film can be and do. That Planet of the Apes is such a pop sci fi phenomenon has made many forget how radical it was—beyond providing an allegory for racism and openly criticizing organized religion, there’s an undeniable anger in Charlton Heston’s performance which goes beyond the most iconic moments. As with Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, the film involves a reversal in which the real villains of the story are fully put into focus in the closing moments. That these progressive ideas (unsurprising given the film was scripted by Rod Serling and blacklistee Michael Wilson) were incorporated into such a successful entertainment marks the great potential of the science fiction genre—the immediacy of the social landscape being made into accessible metaphors was part of Serling’s genius. If anything keeps Planet of the Apes from being a bonafide masterpiece, it is the cutesiness of some of its language (replace the word “man” with “ape” in just about any cliché and you have half the screenplay), but on the other hand the topsy-turvy conceit also lends itself to the film’s most primal, horrifying images, including a human museum.

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