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  • Writer's pictureStephen Yanni

Planet of the Apes (1968) - Primal Surprise

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5 stars)

Released 03-27-1968

Watched 12-28-2023

Reviewed 01-01-2024

Purchased from iTunes

"Beware the beast Man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone among God's primates, he kills for sport or lust or greed."

"Planet of the Apes" (1968) earns a well-deserved four-star rating as a seminal work in the science fiction genre, notable for its pioneering storytelling and memorable surprise ending. Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and featuring Charlton Heston in the lead role, the film stands as a landmark achievement in cinematic history, combining a gripping narrative with groundbreaking special effects and makeup.

Charlton Heston's portrayal of astronaut George Taylor is a standout aspect of the film. His performance encapsulates the raw emotions of a man thrust into an utterly alien and hostile environment. Heston's character arc, from a cynical and detached astronaut to a man passionately fighting for survival and truth, is both compelling and thought-provoking. His final realization in the film's iconic ending is delivered with a palpable sense of shock and despair, making it one of the most memorable moments in cinematic history.

The film's narrative is more than just a simple tale of humans and intelligent apes. It delves into profound themes of civilization, morality, and the very essence of what it means to be human. The societal structure of the apes, with its own hierarchies and prejudices, mirrors our own in ways that are both unsettling and enlightening. This reflection prompts viewers to question and examine the flaws and virtues of humanity.

The makeup and special effects were revolutionary for their time, creating a believable world inhabited by intelligent apes. The attention to detail in the apes' appearance and mannerisms is remarkable, effectively suspending disbelief and drawing the audience into this strange new world. The film's visual storytelling is complemented by its atmospheric cinematography and a compelling musical score, which together create an immersive experience.

Moreover, the movie's setting and production design deserve special mention. The desolate landscapes, the ruins of a once-great civilization, and the primitive yet complex society of the apes are all depicted with a keen eye for detail and realism. These elements combine to create a believable and coherent world that is both fascinating and foreboding.

The film's ending is undoubtedly its most striking feature. The surprise twist not only adds a dramatic punch but also recontextualizes the entire narrative, leaving the audience to ponder the film's deeper messages about progress, hubris, and the cyclical nature of civilizations. This ending has since become one of the most iconic in film history, often referenced and parodied, yet never diminished in its power and impact.

In conclusion, "Planet of the Apes" is a masterpiece that transcends its era. Its innovative approach to storytelling, character development, and thematic exploration make it a must-watch for not only science fiction enthusiasts but also for those who appreciate cinema that challenges and entertains. Its influence on the genre and popular culture is undeniable, making it a timeless classic that continues to resonate with audiences decades after its release.


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