Thursday, November 30, 2023
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Planet of the Apes Review

We’ll never know how they transferred the Statue of Liberty to the Planet of the Apes, but we can sit in astonishment. What other world wonders did those damned, dirty apes take? Keep your hands off of the coffee shop which offers whole loaves of bread for a quid. Take that and you take the reason for living out of a man. Planet of the Apes has a striking lack of coffee stores present for apes and captured humans alike but the gun-toting nutter Charlton Heston does not seem to care. He spends most of his time in a cage anyway, away from the action of orangutan society. George Taylor (Heston) presents the final frontier and all those strange space horrors Stanley Kubrick proposed around the same time. People were taken by the space race. 

But once they saw how big the world was their attention turned to fear instead of adventure. What if primates were better suited to survival than those who first discovered them? Planet of the Apes feels a little clumsy at times, and the interior design is no longer a lightning bolt to the senses, but they never truly were, were they? The real appeal here comes from the cultural revolution, the fallout of Neil Armstrong and friends kicking up moon dust and wandering around. But Planet of the Apes knew it was not set for the survival of the fittest space-age features. Instead, it serves as a palette cleanser, an interesting little feature to put on when the batteries are running low and the new coffee pot still has a metallic twang to it when poured into cups plastered with better movies. The French Dispatch cannot draw direct comparisons with Planet of the Apes unless those sips are engaged. 

But engage the Heston feature and find some fun with it. It runs like an early morning cartoon, the expansive plains of this Pierre Boulle adaptation settle well when the sun is shining and the day runs long and empty. Franklin J. Schaffner was the firm hands of American heroism. If it were not for his work here in maintaining the astronauts of the free world were the King of cultural hearts, we may never have seen Patton. A damned shame it would be to lose that, and the surprising intimacy of his camerawork here, from the crashes to the comedown and subsequent realisation of the horror, is wonderful. There is a tepid look of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness to all of this. They do not realise the horror until it is too late, and by then, there is no way back.  

Planet of the Apes is still convincing, not just in its action and the fear of astronauts drilled into survival but in the exploration of what is perceived as the new world. Funny, how as soon as the chance to leave earth came clear, so many wanted to. Planet of the Apes provides that and is a much grander film than younger minds would first admit to. Some of us watched this incredibly drunk the first time around and did not find the charm of spaceships jutting out of rivers. Now, sober, alone and caffeinated, it is clear to see the fun to be had with this feature. Not just the nostalgia of the era, being brought up on these films, but as a contemporary bit of smart relevance which draws from a gifted setlist of observations. 

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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