“Get your filthy hands off me you damn dirty ape!” Is probably one of the most famous quotes from the original 1967 movie “Planet of the Apes” by Franklin J. Schaffner. The entire film was an instant classic with the public back in the 1960’s upon its release, mainly because of the gripping story, astonishing special effects, and relevance to the 1960’s and possibility that it could happen. The entire film was a testament to the sign of the times and all of the turmoil of its decade. However, in 2001 Tim Burton decided to “re-imagine” the film and make it more modern and shine a completely different light on the saga. Little did Tim Burton know, but his new vision of the original movie would be a complete disgrace and completely lose the meaning of the first movie, thus proving that the original is, and should remain, a timeless classic for the generations to come.
With its original story line and gripping suspense, the original “Planet of the Apes” was a tremendously successful film back in 1967. The film starts off by following four American astronauts as they prepare for an amazing space mission. After being in a deep sleep for an extremely long time the craft crashes into a strange alien world, but only three astronauts survive the crash. After wandering around what appeared to be a deserted desert planet, the survivors hear horns and gunshots coming from a distant field. Upon entering the field, they are rushed by a sea of running humans wearing primitive animal skins, after looking behind them the astronauts are amazed to see overgrown gorillas riding horses and carrying rifles. So the astronauts start to run for their own lives, during the pursuit one of the three are shot, and the last remaining crew members are taken captive, but not before one of the astronauts takes a grazing by a bullet near his throat. All of the human slaves are now placed into a large cage in the center of the ape town. After a few moments a group of apes arrive with leather chokers and take a few of the human specimens, including the two astronauts.
The first astronaut named Taylor, played by the excellent actor Charlton Heston, who still cannot talk because of the wound he received during the chase, was thrown into a cage with another female primitive human named Nova. The plan for these two is to mate but all Taylor wants to do is escape this strange world. The two specimens are frequently visited by a young female chimpanzee named Zira, who studies the two human species and is considered a veterinarian in her field.
After careful planning Taylor makes his escape, but not before passing his last remaining friend in an adjacent cell. To Taylor’s surprise his friend has somehow been lobotomized by this strange race of apes. This fuels Taylor’s hatred towards this new race and he runs for his life to escape, but he is being chased by numerous gorillas carrying clubs, nets, and rifles. Taylor decides to take a slight detour through a museum of some sort only to discover the other astronaut, who has been stuffed and plastered in a showcase as a primitive human man.
This pushes Taylor to run faster, however, once he reached the town square he was ambushed by a team of gorillas with nets on an overhead walkway. As the net was thrown down on Taylor the gorillas rushed him, then Taylor yelled out in anger, “Get your filthy hands off me you damn dirty ape.” This came as a shock to the ape society mainly because no human has ever talked in a very long time.
This new turn of events generates mass panic among the ape society, and the curiosity of the veterinarian Zira. So the ape decides to take Taylor into her home for questioning, and to get him away from the militant gorillas who wish to kill him. Zira has always been sympathetic to the humans and sees that they have more potential that manual labor and scientific probing. She is later joined by her husband, Cornelius, a chimpanzee archaeologist who studies the forbidden zone on the outskirts of the ape city. Taylor begins to describe how he got to the planet after his spaceship crashed; this was another big shocker to the ape civilization because they believed that flight was impossible. This lead to the conclusion that Taylor should be taken to the most intelligent species on the planet the orangutans, but not just any orangutan, but the one and only Dr. Zaius, mainly because he is the oldest and most wise ape in their society.
Dr. Zaius wants to silence Taylor mainly because he knows that humans were once the dominate species and that the apes were the slaves. After learning of his fate, Taylor decided to run once again, but this time Zira, Cornelius, and Nova tagged along. Cornelius decided that they should hide out in the forbidden zone since no ape will ever venture into this lost grounds. After hearing of this escape attempt Dr. Zaius decided to take a band of gorillas and track down the fugitives before they discover the truth behind the forbidden zone. However, the run away team reached the lost grounds first and hid out in a large cave, but was quickly confronted by Dr. Zaius. However in a fight Taylor was knocked back into a rocky pile only to discover a small, talking doll which was ravaged by time.
The two chimpanzees soon put two and two together and discovered that humans were once a highly advanced society and were once the dominate species on this world. Taylor, along with Nova, made a hasty escape on horse back and rode along the ocean shore only to come across an astonishing sight. Taylor leaped off the horse and fell to the ground, pounding his fist in the sand and cursing everyone and everything by screaming, “Damn you, damn you all to hell! You blew it up!” And at that instant the camera pulls out to show the scarred remains of the Statue of Liberty, half buried in sand and badly damaged, proving that Taylor was not on an alien planet but Earth in a far distant future.
With the unique combination of Sci-Fi fantasy and a series of possible events “Planet of the Apes” was an immediate classic among the generations. The entire film was almost perfect, from the excellent actors cast, to the special effects which were ahead of its time. Through the years “Planet of the Apes” has grown from being a simple movie about a stranded astronaut on Earth in the distant future, to becoming a classic enjoyed by all who view it in its 37 year life span. I personally believe that everyone should see the original version at least once in their life, not because of the story or for the effects, but instead for the underline meanings and thought provoking questions about human nature it superbly answers and shows.
In 2001 Tim Burton decided that it would be a good time to remake this old classic and bring it up to date with some minor revisions. Burton did not want to simply retell the story of Taylor, the astronaut, and his wild ride on Earth after being dominated by apes, but instead tell a story of Leo Davidson and his space exploration. The new version was not only inspired by the original, but also the films that followed which included Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, and Battle for the Planet of the Apes. In Tim Burton’s version, the astronauts Leo Davidson, along with a team of scientists, are doing routine space tests using chimps. However, something goes wrong and a chimp goes missing in an electrical storm, so Davidson decides to follow after the chimp in order to save him. This is where the two films differ; first off the original followed four astronauts as they crashed into the planet after a freak electromagnetic storm, where as Burtons film only follows one pilot. Also, Davidson crashes into a dense jungle environment, instead of the original desert conditions in which the original took place. Also no one was looking for the astronaut until he ran across a human slave merchant, who just so happened to be an orangutan. Which is the complete opposite of the wise and powerful orangutans from the original, but instead the position of power was the responsibility of the militant gorillas. Another step back from the original is that the human slaves were nothing more that mere slaves, they were not scientific test subjects like they were back in the original and the slaves could also talk. However, the remake still held onto some of the same story elements and characters from the original, such as the sympathetic, veterinarian chimpanzee named Ari and her equally sympathetic friend Krill.
The story also follows the escape of the fallen astronaut and his new human companion, who is also being helped by the two rebellious apes who also wish to help the two humans leave the hardships of their society. The plan is to, once again, flee to the forbidden zone, all the while be chased by the militant gorillas. Also in the pack of hunters there is the one gorilla that knows of the human’s dominance of the planet. General Thad learned about the dangerous and violent human past from his dying father, played by Charlton Heston, and also was given an old gun that his father had been saving for countless decades. This was the only gun that any ape has ever seen which is in stark contrast to the 1967 version of the rifle carrying apes in the film.
Once the team of outlaws reaches the lost grounds they do not stumble upon an ancient mall that was left in ruins by the extinct human race, but instead they come across the old remains of the space station that Davidson was working on in the far distant past. After entering the back engines and winding up in the main control center Davidson discovers that the ship still has some fuel left in it and the power still works. They are once again met at the lost grounds by an army of gorillas who are ordered to destroy them on sight, much like the original, but instead of a minor confrontation between the astronaut and the gorilla leader, there is an all out human and ape battle scene. In another example one could use to completely separate the two films is that the astronaut escapes the planet with his little ape passenger. Where as in the original Taylor meets his end on the ape planet and will never be allowed to return to his own time again. So in Burton’s version the two astronauts once again encounter a celestial storm, much like in the beginning, and crash back down to the planet. Yet, this time they land in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. But soon after the crash police arrive on the scene and leap out of the squad cars and start waving their guns at the strangers, then Davidson takes a closer look at the officers only to discover that the police were also a group of apes. Quickly he turns around only to be shocked once more to discover that the Lincoln Memorial is a statue of an orangutan sitting on a monument, proving that he is back on Earth but it is still under the ape’s control.
This leaves the audience confused and a bit angry about the entire film. The original did leave the audience guessing but it answered much of its own questions, where as in Burton’s film the fact that the astronauts traveled back in the past only to encounter another ape society only raises more questions. The original also spawned three other films which went over quite well and all of which became a classic in their own respects. Where as Burton tried to use all four original films to create one blockbuster, but Burton did not realize that the purpose for the other films were to create new, individual stories which utilize the same characters and situations. With Burton trying to combine four individual stories into one film he had completely lost sight of the original and that is why his new “revision” of the original was a complete flop.
The original film also set milestones in the field of special effects and make-up for its time. Having a whole cast of ape actors proved a huge problem to director back in 1967, but under the guidance of an award winning make up artist there were no real problems. One make-up session, according to Roddy McDowall who played Cornelius in the film, stated that it would take five to seven hours in a chair just to put on the ape face. Another challenge was that once the make-up was applied, it would have to remain on, even through lunch. The actor expressed his frustration during lunch because everything was either hand fed to him or he had to drink his lunch. Another problem was that they had to stay in make-up, and in full costume, in the middle of the desert for hours on end. This lead to heat exhaustion and caused the make-up to peel and fall apart. Another special effect challenge was the grand finale in which they had to shoot the Statue of Liberty on the beach in ruins. In order to achieve this shot the set designers decided to build a few full scale models that would be used in the pull back from the actors in the start of the scene, followed by a small scale model which was later used in green screen effect in the end when the audience gets a full size view of the decimated statue.
The original does not have what one could say the best effects in the world, but for its time period the visuals were a head of its time. One problem with the original would have to be the make up. Even though the designs were unique and mind blowing, the audience could still tell that an actor was under the mask because they could see the actor’s lips under the apes mask. This may have lessened the quality of workmanship but it was only 1967 and that was the best they could work with. The director tried his best to hide all the cheap effects that were tossed into this picture, but it still seems cheesy even today.
In the 36 years that followed the release of the original, there have been tremendous advancements in the field of special effects. This advancement made the creation of the remake a lot easier for Tim Burton. The area of make up, which proved a problem for the original director and cast, was not a real problem for the modern director. However, Burton did decide that he wanted to improve on the make-up style which was used in the original; he wanted to make the actors facial features more noticeable and articulate. The time spent in the make-up chair for the actors might have been the same as their older counterparts but the quality of work and overall style was greatly improved. Another advantage that Burton had over the original was the use of CGI or computer generated images which were used in the space scenes and crash sequence. The use of models and split screen effects were no longer needed and were also horribly outdated. However the original “Planet of the Apes” received countless awards for its own advancements in special effects and make-up, where as Burton did not receive anything for his remake in any field of the film.
The area of special effects was the only good improvement Burton contributed to the recreation of the original film. The actors actually looked like apes and were very believable in both appearance and body language. The audience was completely blown away by the visual effects, no one could even tell it there was an actor in the costume or not. Much unlike the original’s flaw where the audience could see the actor’s mouth, Burton made absolutely sure that the characters looked and acted like apes and nothing human showed. This is about the only real credit I, and the rest of the filming industry, would give to Burton for his contributions to the original.
There is another field in which the original film did set milestones; it was in the field of current events. The film was a testament to the sign of the times in which it was released. There was a thick air of racial tension surrounding the country. This was subliminally introduced to the audience by the use of a strange ape society which suppresses the human race as slave labor. It only took one human to generate enough turmoil to lead to a revolution against the ape superpower. Also the fear of technology and nuclear advancement in the modern society of 1967 played a role in the film by showing how the human race destroyed by its own hands and leading to the rise of a superior ape society. Taylor knew of this threat and that is why once he saw the destroyed statue he blamed the humans for blowing up their own home world.
The original had a great influence, and took some inspiration from, the time period in which it was released back in the 1960’s. However, Tim Burton did not seem to follow the same hidden warning and meanings expressed in the previous film. The remake did not tell a story of human’s violent nature leading up to our own destruction or of one race claiming superiority to another by enslaving the weaker race. The only real underline meaning of the film that could be possibly concluded would be the threat of a militant leader and problems of human nature.
The original “Planet of the Apes” will forever be a timeless classic and hold a deep meaning to all who watched it. Even after 37 years the original still is entertaining and drawing in new audience with every person who watches it. Where as the remake was a flop at the box office and received countless complaints from the fans of the original it just goes to show that you cannot capture the magic of an extraordinary great classic sci-fi film.