Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
Cast: Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowell, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, Linda Harrison
Synopsis: Colonel George Taylor and crew are on the return gome from a deep space exploration mission. They are well aware that though little time has passed for them, that as they were travelling at light-speed, Earth will have aged 2000 years. Unfortunately, the ship crash lands, the instruments indicating that they are still 300 light years from home. They discover that this is a planet ruled by speaking apes, and that humans are the mute beasts which subjugated by the ruling species.
Given that there is another film added to this franchise in the last few weeks (and also given a Planet of the Apes box set was on sale at JB Hifi for $30… that’s right, 5 films, $30!!), I thought it was ample time I catch up on this series of films and be in the perfect position to give a full review to Rise of the Planet of the Apes when I see it.
I had previously seen the original Planet of the Apes, made in 1968, a number of years ago, being well aware of its reputation and yes, well aware of the twist ending, that having been a popular part of pop culture just as much as what Soylent Green really is. Knowing the twist on that first viewing prevented me on focussing properly on the rest of the film, as I was almost just waiting for the iconic final scene. On this second viewing, I was able to observe a lot more of the social commentary this film was aiming to convey. Animal testing and animal rights has always been a source of fierce debate, yet it certainly seems to have been even more prominent in the late 60’s and early 70’s. What this film does is put a mirror on societies treatment of “soulless beasts”, whilst also confronting the creationist debate at the same time. There is a huge element of religious dogma denying scientific evidence of evolution. These are huge, important ideas, and the absurdity of Apes being dominant over man only serves to further highlight the absurdity of the arrogance of man. This idea is just as relevent today as it was over forty years ago, despite the advancement of ethical treatment of animals in that time.
Cinematically, I will say the film is not perfect. The way the film was shot is certainly dated, with a camera looping all over the place to represent the space vessel crashing. It is really the type of cinematography to induce motion sickness, and wouldn’t be out-of-place in a low-budget independent film today. There are also a number of fight scenes that look quite obviously choreographed, which in an era where James Bond had already revolutionised fight scenes five years earlier is somewhat unforgivable. That said, though makeup effects have come a long way, what they achieved in ape make-up for that time was incredible. The actors may not be identical to simians, but there is enough room for the actors to emote through the makeup, meaning their performances shine through rather than being hindered.
These flaws are forgotten by the end credits though, as even knowing the ending does not detract from its impact (unless like me on the first viewing you just spend the entire film waiting for it). The ideas and morales of this film resonate, and are more than successfully conveyed. A film well deserving of its classic status.
4 stars out of 5