“Planet of the Apes”– From Childhood to Pierre Boulle’s Classic

Planet of the Apes 1968I have been on a huge “Planet of the Apes” kick lately, which is odd considering that my interest in the series has been sporadic and never immersive.  I have never dived so headlong into the franchise until now.  I have been a cursory fan for the better part of two-decades– A mere acquaintance to the series and its inhabitants.  My mom introduced me to the Charlton Heston classics at a young age, which most-likely helped cultivate my current love of science fiction as well as fantasy in almost all mediums.

Very few things can compare to the first time you Heston coming upon the Statue of Liberty at the finale 1968’s “Planet of the Apes.”  It is a classic in its own right, but that scene is so revelatory and momentous that it is difficult to explain its significance.  In the span of only a couple secondsFranklin J. Schaffner ties American culture and pride (through the use of the Statue of Liberty) to the heart of science fiction.

Nevertheless, I’m starting to digress.  Long story short, the 1968 version of “Planet of the Apes” is phenomenal and is a must-watch for anyone with even (just as I had) a cursory interest in the genre and/or series.

Flash forward several years later– At the age of twelve, I am eagerly awaiting Tim Burton’s reboot of “Planet of the Apes.”  It is 2001.  The film has high expectations, a solid cast, and a high profile director.  William Broyle, Jr.’s script was the largest part to the failure of the film.  It was flat, strove for clever plot points (which resulted in confusion), and paid absolutely no homage to the five films before it.

Rise of the Planet of the ApesAnother ten-years pass and Fox decides to reboot the series once more with 2011’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” starring James Franco.  Most people I come in contact with love James Franco.  I can’t stand him.  He is like Michael Cera in the fact that he can act as himself.  As my friend, Josh, would say, “He is a one trick pony.”  However, I like Cera’s trick, (opposed to Franco’s) and here is why:  I never feel like Franco brings anything new to the table, or improves as the films and years wane on.  His stoner movies are shallow, and represent a culture that I’m not too fond of (or find amusing), so on the whole I shy away from him.  His brother Dave, though…not a half bad actor– I can’t wait to see him future films.

Again…long story short, I resisted watching “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” because I dislike James Franco.  Ironically enough, I received a copy of the film from my mother last Christmas, and after all these months I finally sat down and watched it.

It was amazing.

I absolutely loved the film.  James Franco’s performance was spectacular, the plot was fantastic, the CGI was more than exceptional, and besides paying respect to Heston’s classic it forged its own path like a true, quality reboot should strive to accomplish.

Besides having thirteen-years, a MacBook, and a checking account on my twelve-year-old self– I also have Wikipedia and Amazon.  The “Planet of the Apes” universe was my oyster and I was going to crack it slowly, so that I could enjoy it.

Pierre Boulle's Planet of the ApesThe first bit of knowledge that I gleaned from my Wiki source was that the series was originally based on a French novel of the same name by Pierre Boulle.  I could have purchased a cheap copy for my Kindle, but I decided to go cheaper by purchasing an original 1963 English translation by Xan Fielding.  After $5.45 and several days, I had my worn paperback in my greedy little hands and I began reading.  It is a quick read at roughly 130 pages– It only took two sittings to finish the novella.

I was simply flabbergasted.  It is an amazing book.  It hits upon humanism, racism, science fiction, futurism, the dissipating Nuclear Family, and a myriad of other real world problems topics and problems that continue to be relevant today.  It more amazing than the Heston films and is a must-read by anyone with a working brain.  The most surprising part about the whole affair is that such a fantastic novel could have been written by a Frenchmen…who knew!?

Just as selfishly as I was when purchasing and reading into the “Planet of the Apes” lore, I am sharing my new found nerdery with you. I honestly don’t have any wisdom to impart, just good ol’ fashioned fandom at its finest.  My next course of action is to purchase the original five film “Planet of the Apes” Blu-Ray collection, and repeatedly cycle through them in high definition so that I can further my addiction.

Have you ever dived headlong into a new or old series and felt the same sort of elation?  The want to know and experience everything and anything about your particular love?  If so, drop me a line and tell me about it.  I’d love to find me a new nerd addiction.

8 thoughts on ““Planet of the Apes”– From Childhood to Pierre Boulle’s Classic

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  1. Cool retrospective! I actually thought Franco was the biggest problem with this movie, but overall I really enjoyed it. The CGI/motion-capture was, as you said, phenomenal; Andy Serkis deserves his own category at the Academy Awards. Are you excited to see the new film? Franco’s gone, but the promotional image and early synopsis make it seem like they’re really taking this franchise and running with it.

    1. Thank you! Like I mentioned in my original post, I am not a big Franco fan either, so I definitely understand where you are coming from. I thought the special effects were top notch, and I am incredibly excited to see where the franchise goes. I’ve seen a couple of stills from “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and I am personally stoked. I didn’t watch “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” in theaters, but once this next one releases I will be there front-and-center.

      Did you enjoy the older ones? I’ve recently been going back through them. They definitely all have a unique tone, but one of the many things that I appreciate about them is that they all tackled current social/political issues. I hope that if the newer ones gain enough traction that they will try to incorporate some of that into them.

      1. Fully agreed on Dawn – it looks fantastic, and the talent behind the film is very promising!

        You know, I think I’ve only seen the original and that was a long time ago. The only film I remember clearly is Tim Burton’s weird reverse-take on the story.

        I think a sociopolitical spin could be cool for Dawn, but I’m always wary of that getting in the way of the narrative. I don’t want to feel preached at, you know? Some sci-fi movies do this very well – The Truman Show and Children of Men come to mind – while some are very overbearing and ham fisted.

        We’ll have to wait and see what angle they choose to go with!

      2. If you get a chance, go back through the older ones– Even if it is just for nostalgia’s sake. They hold up quite well and really add to the reboot’s vision. “Rise of the Planet of Apes” has quite a few nods to the original films.

        Good point on the sociopolitical spin. They do often diminish the plot. If handled carefully it can be done. I just really love that scene in the original “Planet of the Apes” that mimics a McCarthy hearing, and then shows the three Orangutan’s in the traditional ‘see no evil,’ ‘hear no evil,’ ‘speak no evil’ poses. It spoke volumes with no actual words or direct indicators that they were in fact showing audiences an ad hoc McCarthy hearing.

        Nevertheless, it is difficult to write that kind of nuance, and maybe they would be better off sticking with the sci-fi storyline for now.

        As an aside, I absolutely love “Children of Men.” Definitely one of my favorite films.

      3. I’ll have to take that into consideration! There are a bunch, but when I have time I’ll give them a look.

        Exactly – it’s difficult to get right. Moreover, if you don’t agree with the commentary, it can be really off-putting. Polarizing is the right word for it, I think.

        I love that movie, too! Cuarón’s definitely one of my favorites – very excited for Gravity!

      4. “Gravity” looks amazing. I have heard many wonderful things about it thus far, and I can’t wait to see it for myself. Early reviewers are raving over Bullock’s performance. I am almost always up for a Clooney or Bullock film.

      5. Absolutely agreed on all points. I also love long (but interesting) shots, something that Cuarón specializes in. Judging by how blown away Cameron was by the film on a technological front, I think we’re in for a treat.

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