50 years ago last Tuesday, as I write this on Saturday April 7, Planet of the Apes came out in wide release. Today, it holds up very well. Also, I am trying something new: writing a brief explanation for my numeric score for each question and why it's worthy of a yes or no.
In short, Planet of the Apes holds up as a classic after 50 years, but is not without its flaws.
Planet of the Apes, 4/7/18, 84%, B, 4.5 Stars.
-Is it well paced? 6/10, No
Moves slowly, shots lingure.
-Did it make sense? 8/10, Yes
The plot was structured well, but Nova’s shaved legs are a huge oversight when you realize she lived in the wild until she was captured by the apes. I may be reading a little too deep into that detail, but she was surprised to see Taylor’s shaved face in the last act. Also, how did he get the shaving cream? Anyway, the metaphor for the counterculture and the evolution vs. creationism debate still holds up today as a thought provoking look at our place in the universe as humans. This movie is clearly a product of its times, especially highlighted with Lucious. It is sci-fi holding a mirror up to society, using talking apes to discuss the shifting cultural landscape of the time.
-Were the main ones relatable? 9/10, Yes
Taylor acts as the eyes and ears of the audience, at least a 1968 audience. He says this one line about Stewart, the female astronaut who dies before the crash, that came off as, to put it mildly, objectifying her. Aside from that line, Zira’s nephew Lucius, who comes in towards the end, reflects the counterculture of the time, which
-Were the main ones well developed? 8/10, Yes
Taylor was a cool, likable lead, and Charlton Heston does a great job as the tough, no-nonsense leader of the astronauts, and delivers memorable lines like the dirty ape one and his rant at the end. Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, Lou Wagner, and all the other ape performers give quality performances through the ape suits as Cornelius, Zira, Dr. Zaius, and Lucius respectively. Cornelius and Zira are developed as the young adult scientists who want the objective truth to be known to the world, like the evolution theory in the 1960s. Dr. Zaius is developed as the cranky old scientist who sticks dogmatically to the ancient scrolls, which acts as a stand-in for the Bible and its alleged proposal the physical Earth is 6000 years old instead of billions of years old. And finally, Lucius represents the youth of the 1960s who don’t trust people over the age of thirty, a saying of the time quoted verbatim by Taylor towards the end.
-Was it clear? 9/10, Yes
The ape suits hold up surprisingly well, despite CGI apes of the reboot series. I will not judge it by today’s standards, given that it is not a contemporary, but I have to say that not all visuals have to be stunningly realistic CGI apes. They are clearly designed to be more humanoid than the straight-up chimps and gorillas we got in those. Here, the puppetry is still spectacular. I give the puppeteers credit for getting the mouths in sync with the dialogue, and applaud the cast for acting through them, with what I can only guess is their eyes visible through the prosthetics and through their vocal performances. However, some of the action doesn’t age well, and the flaws are more pronounced on HD screens, whether it be a TV, or a Macbook like the one I watched it on. I’d also like to add there is actual male tushie to be seen after the crash when Landon, Dodge, and Taylor bathe in a lake, so do not let the G rating fool you.
-Is everything there for a reason? 10/10, Yes
Everything advances the narrative of astronaut visits upside down ape world order, as well as the creationism vs. evolution metaphor. We see how these apes are taught the “creation” of their world as evidence, as well as how Dr. Cornelius suppresses objective evidence that humans were once the way we were then, and are now for the most part 50 years after it came out. Also, the male tush was there because they had to bathe, but this was the early days of the MPAA, so I’ll give them a pass here.
-Did it convey the appropriate emotion(s)? 8/10, Yes
The soundtrack conveyed the appropriate emotions, but Jerry Goldsmith didn’t do anything too extraordinary with it. Some good flourishes here and there, but
-Was it used appropriately? 8/10, Yes
I feel Jerry Goldsmith’s soundtrack was kind of underutilized, but in the iconic end scene, it highlights Taylor’s disappointment in his contemporaries. For today’s audience, it may feel weird, and add to an already sluggish pace, but like I said, the past cannot and should not be judged by today’s standards.
-Was the humor appropriate, and did it work well? 8/10, Yes
Taylor’s reference to youth culture when talking with Lucius was about the funniest moment of the movie, but before that, there is not much humor beyond a few exchanges Taylor has with Dodge and Landon before they are seperated.
-Were there few, if any unnecessary/uncalled-for profanities? 10/10, Yes
The language is clean.
- Really Bad
100%-97% = A+
96%-93% = A
92%-90% = A-
89%-87% = B+
86%-83% = B
82%--80% = B-
79%-77% = C+
76%-73% = C
72%-70% = C-
69%-67% = D+
66%-63% = D
62%-60% = D-
59% or below = F