Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Planet of the Apes ★★★1/2

Image result for Planet of the apes 1968 title shot

     Interstellar expeditions and time travel have been the subject of numerous pictures found in the lengthy history of the film industry. These often impractical and fanciful notion based tales have successfully delighted audiences for decades. However, none of these distinct miscellanies of films would have been created if not for the 1968 science fiction classic entitled "Planet of the Apes." This picture is the perfect amalgam of adventure and struggle. The dignity of man becomes the forefront issue in this timeless escape from reality.

     George Taylor, our leading protagonist, is a man of integrity. He has lost faith in mankind and ventures to find something superior to the feeble-minded and frail physical nature of the human. Little does he know that this expectation will be fulfilled in the unlikeliest of forms.

     An expedition crew of four are abruptly awoken from hibernation and have discovered their crash landing on an unknown planet. The aspiration to procreate and exercise fertility is almost immediately dashed, as the only female of the company and the new "Eve" could not survive an air leak in her sleeping chamber. The three male crew members abandon ship and advance through a seemingly uninhabitable landscape simulating the terrain of the western desert.

     Here lies the most ingenious and aesthetically pleasing portion of the film. While being shot along the Colorado River, these scenes provide the essential allure to persuade the viewer of the mysticism of this new world. The panoramic array of shots are crafted exceptionally well and easily achieves the effect of semblance. Although we can ascertain that this world is much like our own, the atmosphere of the moment suggests otherwise.

     After subsequently finding a small plant that would imply that life can persevere on this dry and humid planet, our subjects stumble upon a pleasant oasis and vegetative plant life. They quickly realize that they are not alone and find themselves face to face with a primitive model of mankind. Their speculation is short-lived, however, as a group of humanlike apes begin to capture and kill many of these newly discovered life forms. Taylor is shot and captured among the chaos and is transferred back to the ape village.

    This becomes the setting for much of the film, as Taylor is held captive and becomes the center of attention among the detainees. Dr. Zira, the animal psychologist, becomes particularly infatuated with Taylor and names him "bright eyes." Although Taylor's injury to his neck rendered him speechless, he eventually obtains Dr. Zira's notepad and proves his intelligence through the pen. This unexpected turn of events forces the elders of the village to debate the origins of this man and to ponder concepts that oppose their faith and social construction.

    Charlton Heston is a distinguished actor who has portrayed individuals of exceeding importance, and this includes his role in "Ben-Hur" and his role as Moses in "The Ten Commandments." Heston's presence in this film is indispensable, thus providing a nucleus of authenticity for a story that divulges into quixotic notions of perceptibility.

    This essentially forces Heston to interact with his fellow actors and actresses while they are masked behind the visage of an intelligent animal being. This is a daunting task that Heston conquers with his professionalism and expertise as a premier actor. Despite the fact that this portrayal cannot measure up to Heston's previous achievements, he essentially provides the glue that holds this film together and charms us with his resilience.

    The high elders of this caste structured society condemn Taylor and sentence him to lobotomy. With the help of Dr. Zira and her fiancé, Taylor and his muted female companion escape the crucifixion and voyage beyond the "forbidden zone." This leads to a startling discovery that places Taylor in a mental state of vexation and a forced realization that everything he believed about mankind was undoubtedly true.

    I can most certainly comprehend the skepticism that surrounds this film, considering that it has been the subject of many dubious sequels and remakes. (How can a film with actors dressed up as apes convey any sense of intellectuality or thought provoking ideas?) However, no matter how simplistic or absurd the exterior of this film may seem, it is a classic in the science fiction genre and has paved the way for some of the most brilliant stories ever captured on celluloid film.

    Although the prominent thematic concern in this picture is the plot, there is a sense of struggle with regard to Taylor's dignity and the dignity of mankind as a whole. Man as we know it has been reduced to a primitive life form and deemed a futile attempt at domestication.

    This topsy-turvy constructed way of life and inverted nature of evolution is something to cogitate on for some of us who, like Taylor, have found that man has lost the morality of his soul. Is it feasible that man could succumb to the conditions that would bring this impractical future upon us? Well, surely nothing is impossible. The image of the United States flag situated among the red dust of what used to be a fruitful existence of humanity should never be forgotten.  

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