‘Planet of the Apes (1968)’ – film essay

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Imagine this. You are the only person marooned somewhere far away from your world. You have all heard the dystopian chimes of every brave new world from George Orwell’s totalitarian society of 1984 to William Golding’s terrifying Lord of Flies and Aldous Huxley’s eponymously prophetic Brave New World. Yet, you have not realized how it would be like until you enter such a world alone. The world you face now is the amalgamation of all the worlds described above that exist in the selfishness of lettered cases. What would be your impulsive action toward the stupendousness of the incredible event? Besides, what if your best work a la your reason and hope as good as your pride and hubris can present turns out to be a grand Faux pas?

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Planet of the Apes (1968), directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, is a crackling Sci-Fi movie that translates the dystopian thematic of a world in a phantasmagorical display of primal humans and intelligent primates that upends the existing hierarchy of creations and reconstructs the fundamental doctrines of the Origin of Species. It is an advanced society of chimpanzees and orangutans that talk smart, which the 20th-century American astronaut George Taylor (played by Charlton Heston) is hard to stomach with human pride. He then becomes a deformed kind of human slave of the apes in this new brave world where from their God to a prison guard, the apes are the master of the humans. What a wonder this brave new world, that has such apes in it.

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The movie is a visually compelling Juvenalian satire that mercilessly but humorously mocks the targeted human hubris that brings about its destruction in an attempt to replace the role of God. The thinking, talking, and even kissing apes mirror the social behaviors that are no more particular to humans who fail to preserve humankind’s prerogatives by the self-destruction of humanity from catastrophic nuclear war. Taylor embodies the hubris in the optimistic veneer of audacious hope that he will find a way home, to his kinds. It is this hubris that causes the downfall of humankind and himself. He hunts desire and hopes together in the constant resistance against the apes despite the impossibility of returning to earth with the defunct spaceship. His faith is nothing but a waking dream, haughty defiance against the reality, dreaming an awareness of odds in his favor.

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The figure of Taylor is one oddly fascinating mixture of panache and wit, sarcasm, and heart, wrapped in the likeliness of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Talyor represents dramas of human characters wonderfully packed in the imposing physique, towering the apes as if to manifest the sovereignty of man over the apes. The pathos of Taylor in the climactic denouement of the movie reveals his frailty in recognization of the collapsed grand narratives of hope, disillusioned wishes, and shattered dreams as uttered by Macbeth: “Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage. And then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Will this be an empty outcry of failed civilization, echoing the collective pathos of the human consciousness for the corrupt world at its heart?

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2 thoughts on “‘Planet of the Apes (1968)’ – film essay

  1. Veronica

    I loved your review, Stephanie! ♥️

    The intertextual allusions throughout the article are magnificent, especially the comparisons to ”Macbeth,” and your rhetoric question at the end left me intrigued! 🌟

    I’ve added ”Planet of the Apes” to my watchlist. Frankly speaking, I only saw the modern version, and didn’t enjoy it that much; however, the original is always better!

    Have you read ”We” by a Russian author, Yevgeny Zamyatin? This novel became not only the origin of dystopia in literature, but also inspired both Orwell and Huxley; truth be told, Russia is similar to a dystopian world, so it doesn’t surprise me at all!😄

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    1. Stephanie Suh Post author

      Thank you very much for your ebillient compliment, Veronica 🙂 I greatly appreciate it. I usually do not like watching a Sci-fi movie, but after watching the superb performance of Charlton Heston in ‘Ben-Hur’, I wanted to check out ‘Planet of the Apes.’ The movie is filled with allusions to 1984, Brave New World, and other dystopic works of literature, which are superbly performed and fantastically translated to a screen. Charlton Heston has such an excellent epic face and imposing physique that makes him look like a biblical figure or a Greek mythological hero. As per Yevgeny Zamyatin’s “We,” I will check it out on kindle. It sounds really intriguing. I relish such sharing of intellectual knowledge! It’s what I call a charity of humanity. Many thanks, Veronica 🙂

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