Friday, 12 February 2016

Franklin J. Schaffner’s “Planet of the Apes” – Pedestrian Simian

I confess I was looking forward to seeing this again.  As a species, we’ve been setting ourselves up for a fall with our endless feudin’, reality shows and bum selfies.  What’s not to love about a bunch of mega-evolved apes coming along to kick our worthless hairless asses? 

The first half an hour of Franklin J. Schaffner's 'Planet of the Apes' is great. With its discordant score, crazy camera angles, sparky characters and stark desert scenes it seems to be setting itself up for a classic.

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Then the apes appear and things go downhill. The initial scenes of the armed apes on horseback are effective enough but the film slows right down into a pedestrian satire of human warfare and religious fundamentalism.

Before we know it, three of the four original cast that we've been getting to know are either dead or brain dead.

Review continues below...

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When they arrive on the planet the crew ask 'Which direction?' Carlton Heston's character points to the right. 'That way.' 'Any particular reason?' 'None at all.' Perhaps if he'd set off to the left they'd have walked into the brilliant film that the start promised.

That said, if you ever find yourself unable to speak through injury and subjected to a period of imprisonment and torture by overbearing talking apes, you could do worse than to end your muteness with Heston's line, 'Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!'

There are a few other nice lines but you’ve probably heard them all a thousand times.  Bottom line is that after a decent start the apes look the part but they're just too lame.

Personal Score: 4/10

This is part of a series of film reviews where I give my comments on IMDB Top 250 films as a writer. The idea is that over time these posts will build into a wide-ranging writing resource.

For more details about the approach I've taken, including some important points about its strengths and weaknesses (I make no claims about my abilities as a film critic or even the accuracy of my comments... but I do stand by the value of a writer's notes on interesting films), see my introductory post here.

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