Monday, May 20, 2024

NY Times Likes Planet of the Apes

Jamelle Bouie writes in the NY Times:
There is no franchise in Hollywood filmmaking that is as consistently good, and as consistently interesting, as “Planet of the Apes.”

I feel very strongly about this, and not because I am an admitted enthusiast of genre filmmaking. Like any long-running series, “Planet of the Apes” — which spans 10 films and more than 50 years — has its lows. But those are well outnumbered by the films that deliver real thrills, showcase strong (and occasionally exceptional) performances and, rare among Hollywood movies of its type, provoke thoughtful discussion of serious ideas.

If you somehow are not familiar with the premise of “Planet of the Apes,” it is surprisingly straightforward. In the far future, mankind has regressed into animalistic squalor — unable to speak or reason — and intelligent apes have stepped into the sunlight as Earth’s premier sentient species. The first five films, beginning with 1968’s “Planet of the Apes” and concluding with 1973’s “Battle for the Planet of the Apes,” tell the story of the fall and rise (and fall again, perhaps) of ape society.

The 1968 film, starring Charlton Heston, is a masterpiece. Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, who would go on to win an Academy Award for best director for “Patton,” with cinematography by Leon Shamroy (best known for his work on “Cleopatra” and “The King and I”), it begins as a sparse and desolate disaster film, with a trio of astronauts wandering a seemingly strange planet of blue skies and desert vistas. When the apes finally arrive — as predators hunting a roving band of humans — it is in a kinetic sequence of genuine intensity. From there the film becomes a drama of sorts, as Heston’s cynical and misanthropic protagonist, Taylor, tries to prove his intelligence to ape scientists and escape lobotomization and castration at the hands of ape leaders. The movie ends, of course, with Taylor and his human companion Nova stumbling on the ruins of the Statue of Liberty, at which point Taylor damns the people of his time for their folly. “You maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!”

The rest is behind a paywall, so I am not sure what point he is making.

If there is any discussion of serious ideas, it is mainly the foolishness of a civilized society allowing itself to be infiltrated by inferiors who hate the dominant group. It seems like a thinly disguised story of how White South Africans got taken over by Blacks.

I would have thougth that Blacks would be offended by these movies. Instead they seem to admire how "intelligent apes have stepped into the sunlight as Earth’s premier sentient species." Or that's what Bouie says, anyway.

1 comment:

CFT said...

The planet of the apes trope has two main points to make:

1. Humanity is stupid and doomed.

2. Wouldn't anything else be just as good or better?

I've been more than tired of this self loathing dysutopia manure since they became trendy in the 70s.

Planet of the Apes (and all the following chapters)
Soylet Green
Mad Max (any chapter)
Judge Dredd
ad nausea...

None of these movies have a single theme of redemption from their own nihilism, only 'it's only down down down baby, let it all burn, we don't need no stinking society', which I find not in the least bit entertaining or enlightening. There are people who really get off on this stuff and find it self affirming in some manner.

Bleak despair, ruin, self and cultural destruction, a loathing of western civilization, are not really entertaining. They are degrading, as they indicate a nihilistic worldview of those who do not understand how society or economies works, and who don't care, or hope for anything better than their own miserable death delayed by a short few years.

Nihilism is much like a person who refused to learn how to swim, who jumps into a swimming pool full of people and tries to take as many people as they can with them to the bottom in their poorly disguised suicide.

If you really want to watch a movie about the end of the world, and trying to do something about it besides cheering it on, watch 'Idiocracy', it lampoons all the previous self imposed nihilism garbage and admits things can get quite a bit better if you should just turn your brain back on and stop thinking in mindless slogans.