Our (Planet of the) Apes, Ourselves

Here’s one from this morning’s New York Times arts section.

Film critic Terrence Rafferty spends some time thinking about the upcoming “Planet of the Apes” reboot and takes a moment to consider what the new movie, along with the original 1960s franchise, says about contemporary culture and the culture that spawned it.

Here’s the germane part of the story:

“It’s a witty notion, of a kind that characterized old-school science fiction: the fantastic “what if?” premise that allows the writer to examine the conditions of his own time from a different perspective. The novel and the first movie, which had a screenplay by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling, came out at the height of the cold war, when bomb anxiety made the end of the humanity as we know it seem a not entirely fanciful notion. In the film’s famous final sequence, Taylor, having escaped from the apes, sees the head of the Statue of Liberty on the beach and realizes to his horror that he has been on a post-nuclear-holocaust Earth all along. (Thanks to relativity, his space odyssey has landed him a couple of thousand years into the future.) Nuclear worries may not be as high as they were in the 1960s, but the image still resonates. We know that our species hasn’t yet developed to the point where blowing ourselves up is unthinkable.

But most of the interest of the original “Planet of the Apes” and its sequels lies in their skewed, satiric take on human nature. The apes are disconcertingly like us, and it’s fun both to imagine them as better than we are and to watch their civilization developing some very familiar discontents. They have race and class issues and a rather rigid social hierarchy: orangutans rule, gorillas enforce, and chimpanzees do most of the intellectual work — subject to the approval of the orangutans, who sit in judgment like the Académie Française or the Holy Office. The chimp scientists who try to save Taylor are accused of heresy: the orangutans and the gorillas are, to an ape, staunch creationists.”

Read the full story here.

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This entry was posted in Film News, Our Films, Ourselves, Sci-Fi, Sequel-Itis, Thinking About Movies and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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