Planet of the Apes (Franklin J. Schaffner, 1968, USA)

Based on the 1963 novel by French novelist Pierre Boulle, 
Planet of the Apes spawned a tremendously successful franchise, including a run of films in the 1970s, a Tim Burton-directed reboot in the early 2000s, and a highly successful reboot in the 2010s - not to mention various TV series and spin-offs. Brought to the screen by Franklin J. Schaffner, who had an incredible directorial run in the late 1960s and 1970s (including PattonPapillon, and The Boys from Brazil), Planet was one of two sci-fi films to hit the top 10 at the US box office in the tumultuous year of 1968 - the other being Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Like Kubrick's film, Planet was able to tap into the countercultural moment of the 1960s. 

The script by Michael Wilson and Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling, while today is mostly known for its infamous twist ending and great lines, is meant to be an examination of the social upheaval going on during the late 1960s. While Charlton Heston's character represents an intrusion and disruption of the static order of the Apes, we also see that there is tension and division even amongst the Apes themselves - depending on their type, each ape forms a various class. 

With one of Charlton Heston's best performances, and an incredible cast performing and emoting very well despite all of their makeup, Planet of the Apes holds up remarkably well even today. It is best evaluated not for its action scenes - though these are done well - more for the philosophical questions the film raises about human rights and the nature of man. And we cannot forget about the film's infamous ending, which still packs a punch even in 2021 and has lost none of the resonance it likely had on premiering in 1968. 


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