JT Film Review

102 – Planet of the Apes (1968)

Planet of the Apes REVIEW

4.5/5 stars

Director – Franklin J. Schaffner

Cast – Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, Linda Harrison, James Daly, Robert Gunner, Jeff Burton


– followed by Beneath the Planet of the Apes


Planet of the Apes is based on a book by Pierre Boulle, who is also famous for writing The Bridge Over the River Kwai. It is about an astronaut in the future who crash-lands with two comrades on a planet where apes are the dominant species. Here, humans are stunted and stupid, and can easily be hunted by the apes.

 Charlton Heston as Taylor (the lead role) is quite cocky, even arrogant as the movie opens. His companions, Landon and Dodge, are more reserved. I would have liked to see a bit more of them in the movie, but we see enough of them that when certain developments occur we feel the necessary impact.

Taylor’s character arc through the movie really propels it along marvelously. When he is captured by Apes he is really defeated, but when he realizes a couple of Apes do not “tow the party line” (that humans are inferior and are to be treated as such), he grasps onto this straw and attempts to convince an Ape court that he is from a distant solar system, and that he is intelligent. This is not easy, especially as his throat is damaged when he is captured, and he can not talk.

Conflict then comes from the Apes High Court, who hold a kangaroo court to condemn both Taylor as inferior and the friendly apes as heretics. Taylor eventually breaks out of prison and tries to journey to the Forbidden Zone, where he believes there is a secret which the Apes superiors are trying to hide. This leads to a climactic confrontation and battle of wills at an archaeological dig, where there is possible evidence of humans having lived on this planet about 2,000 years before. After escaping the Apes, Taylor and Nova, a human he has befriended/fallen in love with, ride away from the area, expecting to find a lush jungle on the other side of the Forbidden Zone. Instead, what he finds shows the whole movie in a different light. I won’t reveal the ending here, just in case anyone reading this doesn’t know it, but let me say it does indeed come as a brutal sucker punch, but in a good way.

This movie is an allegory for two things in general. The main attack of this movie is focused against man’s treatment of his world and other species on it. Man doesn’t want to be treated as animals, yet we treat other species in an inexcusable manner. The apes are shown doing this, and it is obvious what we are being told. Some of the language used by the Ape court (talk of heresy, etc) is deliberately that of religion, but the other point of contention which this movie has is not with religion but with closed-minded thinking in general. The Ape court is reasoned with by Taylor, and yet they refuse to listen to what is brutally obvious. It is said that the screenwriters added this bit as a reference to the McCarthy Hearings of the 1950’s. If that is the case, that would certainly be a good example of  the film’s message.

An important thing to note is that despite the movie’s philosophical bend, Planet of the Apesis a fast-moving adventure story at heart. Its subtle and yet well stated way of dealing with fairly serious issues is icing on the cake, not the cake itself.


Planet of the Apes is a great science fiction in the classic mold. The story has real resonance, and it is shot beautifully. Granted, some of the indoors sets look a little like the sets from the 60’s Star Trek show, flimsy and painted, but the outdoor scenes are wonderful, and all things considered this is a great example of this particular era in movie making. With a good message, special effects that (while not quite holding up today) were great for their time, and a strong story and characters, this is a movie that really should be seen.



“Planet of the Apes” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia



July 20, 2010 - Posted by | 4.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Sci-fi, Year - 1960-1969 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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