Making the Grades
When astronaut George Taylor (Charlton Heston) crash lands on an unfamiliar planet, he discovers a world where Apes rule and humans are treated like animals.
Setting out on a six-month-long deep-space exploration, a group of astronauts awaken from hibernation when their ship crash-lands on an unfamiliar planet, only to find that due to some technical malfunction they have actually been traveling for a year and a half. Escaping from their vessel moments before it sinks into the depths of the sea, the stranded threesome set out across a desolate desert landscape in search of food or life.
But when they find them, the hostile landscape proves kinder than the world's inhabitants. Fooled by the simplicity of the primitive group of mute humans they first stumble upon, the aliens are unprepared when a group of armed, and highly civilized apes attack, killing many people and taking the survivors captive.
Held behind bars and unable to talk because he was shot in the throat, the cynical and abrasive astronaut Col. George Taylor (Charlton Heston) has reason to question his long held belief that "Somewhere in the universe there must be something better than mankind," as he helplessly witnesses apes beating, caging, and leashing people, as well as using them for experimental medical research. Desiring to be treated as more than a mere animal, Taylor tries to communicate with Dr. Zira (Kim Hunter), a psychologist involved in human behavioral studies, and her archeologist fiance Dr. Cornelius (Roddy McDowell). Astonished beyond their wildest imaginations when they learn Taylor can write, the young chimp couple cannot understand the negative reaction their discovery receives from Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans), their superior and Keeper of the Faith.
When it becomes apparent that Dr. Zaius plans to silence Taylor forever, Zira and Cornelius must act quickly to protect what they believe to be the long searched for evidence supporting some theories the pair have been formulating, but have been unable to get the scientific community to embrace.
Resonating with some of the cultural concerns of the late 1960's when the film was made, Planet of the Apes sets up the classic battle of evolution verses religion, which may prove offensive to some (although the story's construct leaves room to argue that faith and science are not as different as the opinions of those who interrupt them). On the other hand, anyone with sensitivities about how inhumane man can be towards animals will likely appreciate the messages conveyed in this film where man gets a taste of his own medicine.
Consequently, Planet of the Apes, based on a novel by Perrie Boulle, provides plenty to think about, but parents should be warned that it also contains enough battle scenes and rear male nudity to discourage showing it to less than teenaged children. Forging a strong link in the evolution of modern science fiction films, this classic was nominated for an Oscar, and won an honorary award for outstanding makeup. Because the public went ape over it, the concept eventually grew into a set of 5 movies, and inspired 2 television series.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Planet Of The Apes (1968).
The apes have a very poor opinion about man’s intelligence and behaviors. Are Taylor’s actions likely to improve their image of mankind? What kind of person would you choose as an ambassador of our species?