Planet of the Apes Synopsis and Viewpoints


As you will come to learn, I have a love for the classic. Planet of the Apes is one of the best known and remade stories of our time, with two tv-movies, six movies, a tv series, and even a video game. Starring Charlton Heston as Taylor, Robert Gunner as Landon, and Jeff Burton as Dodge. We follow the adventures of these great space explorers on their return home from their six month voyage through space. One of the great things about this film is the way they use the camera motion and angles to give you the sense of unease, linking your feelings with the feelings of the characters. They also do a wonderful job on the set, showing the surrounding area with a variety of aerial shots, and wide angles. These shots give us a view of the vast nothing that engulfs the characters. The wide angles show the boundless wasteland that is constantly surrounding them, giving you that feeling that both you and the characters small and insignificant in comparison to their surroundings. They also include a couple shots where the camera is 90 degrees giving you the perception of everything around you spinning. I believe these angles are to help make the viewer feel as though they are dehydrated and or reaching heat stroke just like the crew.


After crash landing on the unknown planet, into a giant lake of all things, the crew abandons their sinking ship with what supplies they can manage and make their way in the grand new world. Once afloat in a rubber dingy, the crew floats on the river through the many crags and around bends till they reach a part of shore that they are willing to beach on. The large  boulders and dried and cracked terrain are very well created, and very life like. Everything in this opening scene is the same monotonous brown colour, except for the crew in their white uniforms and silver backpacks. While approaching a number or odd scarecrows, they notice over a ridge, their first cluster of real trees. Previously, they had found a meagre plant, a weed if anything, and until this first tree it was the only form of life found on the planet. Beyond the first cluster of trees, they find themselves a small paradise with a waterfall and a lagoon of clean fresh water. Covered in sunshine and shade, our adventurers quickly strip down and plunge into the fresh water. Frolicking and splashing about, our heroes rejoice in the spender, and cool waters. Unknowing to them, their clothes and supplies are being stolen and destroys by the inhabitants of this unknown place, until they are spotted, then the chase is on. Thundering through the bush, they pick up any scraps of clothing still usable for cover. Finding everything torn or smashed there is little to recover. The chase leads us to a farm like clearing, where we find our thieves clustered with more of the planet inhabitants. The inhabitants seems to be neanderthal like humanoids. Before we know it, a new chase is on, only it is our heroes and the thieves that are now fleeing in terror. The assailants are quickly located and appear to be large apes on horseback, clad in armour with weapons and nets. During the chase, we lose one of our heroes. Once rounded up and captured, the humans are places in cages and wagons, off to the side we focus our attention on three large apes posing with three dead humans all piles together. The apes are posing for a photo and this is our first real encounter with the apes during their casual hours, showing their similarities to humans in the current state.


Fast forward to the holding pens where the humans are being kept, at this point the only one of our heroes we know anything about is Taylor. Taylor has been injured during the chase, requiring surgery to be done on his neck. This has rendered him voiceless and unable to verbally communicate. During his recovery period he is evaluated and watches by Dr. Zira. The local animal psychologist. She believes that there is more to humans than just their animalistic values and is determined to find a link between the humans and their civilized ape society. Dr. Zira places a woman is Taylor’s in his holding cell to see what reaction it will have on their newly acquired human. At this point he is referred to only as Bright Eyes. It becomes apparent that none of the humans can physically speak, and yet Bright Eyes seems to constantly try and speak to Dr. Zira. Eventually Taylor is able to steal paper and pencil from Dr. Zira’s hands, with just enough time to write “My name is Taylor” before the guard beats him to retrieve the stolen items. Instantly Dr. Zira decided to remove him from the cages and bring him home for further study.


Once in the home of Dr. Zira, she and her mate Cornelius dispute the intelligence and the credibility of Taylor and the connection between humans and ape. Cornelius is working to prove that there is a correlation between the two ,though it is looked down on by the rest of the community. Cornelius is reluctant to believe Taylor’s story about his journey through the Forbidden Zone; the vast wasteland our three heroes travelled through after crash landing. Not until Taylor creates a paper air plane does Cornelius starts to believe in Taylor, moments later Dr.Zira and Cornelius are joined by Dr. Zais and two others. Dr. Zais will have none of what they have to say, he crushes the paper plane without seeing it fly, and has Taylor returned to his cell.


After being returned to his cage, Taylor overhears that he is to be removed and experimented on, before the apes can get a hold of him, he breaks free. Fleeing through the town, escaping by any means necessary he causes quite a bit of damage, and notice, forcing more apes to join in the chase. Barely escaping he, finds himself in a museum. The museum is full of stuffed humans in a variety exhibitions, one exhibition in particular leaves him motionless. It is the body of Dodge, clad in a loincloth with a spear. Panicking, he takes flight again to the streets. Back in the streets he becomes surrounded and eventually gets caught in a net. Suspended in air, the apes grab him only to hear the exclamation of “Get your hands off me, you damn dirty ape!”. This scene is important because it is the first time we hear Taylor speak since his injury, this is also the first time modern day ape has heard a human speak in hundreds of years. This is also a quote that has made history, with many sitcoms and tv shows making a reference at one point or another. This is not the only memorable quote that is taken from this movie. Other quotes such as “Its a mad house, a mad house!” And “You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!” With the “God damn you all to hell being the most remembered part of the full quote”. Time and time again we see these quote come up, they even have made an appearance in Futurama on season 2 episode 2, Mars University.


Taylor’s tribunal takes up a fair portion of the rest of the movie, during the tribunal Dr. Zira and Cornelius act as his legal counsel -even though the judges make it quite clear that Taylor is a human and has no rights under ape law- they do their best to try and free Taylor and prove that he is the link between human and ape potential. No matter what evidence they put forward it is continuously shot down as unreasonable and not possible, insinuating that Taylor is a liar and there is more of his tribe out there. They refuse to believe that he is from a different place in time and space. It comes to a point in the trial where Taylor writes that he was not the only one of his kind. That he and his two other members of his crew were separated and are different from the others. This leads him to be brought to a group of those confided humans where he is to look and try and find the rest of his clan. Prove that he is not the only one with the ability of speech. After looking at all the faces he finds Landon. Excited he call and yells to him. With no response Taylor runs to him only to be find his brain has been experimented on. We see a large scar on the side of his temple. Discovering this Taylor is enraged and the group leads him back to the previous scene where Dr. Zira starts again on her claims for Taylor’s case. During her speech we are given a clean straight shot on our three judges. The three judges are in a row depicting the ever famous, hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil poses, with their hands in the corresponding placements. This leads me to question if this was the first instalment of the ever famous vision or if it was simply recreated. I have to admit this is one thing I have yet to research. I also wonder why when Landon was being experimented on, the apes failed to notice is ability of speech. Was he unconscious the whole time? If not, there would have certainly been opportunity for Landon to do what Taylor had done, and try and communicate with the surrounding staff. Even the majority of the ape population are surprised and realized the immense meaning when Taylor makes his first statement. In my opinion, that would be a reason to call more doctors in to view the magnificent human who has learned to speak. Turning him into a side show would have been more profitable or beneficial rather than experimentation.


After Dr. Zaius closes the tribunal, he takes Taylor to his office to offer him one last opportunity of truth. He tries to get him to admit that there was another forest on the farther side of the forbidden zone, and that there are more of his tribe over there. He threatens him with experimentation, and Taylor’s only response is to stick to his story and infer that Dr.Zaius is only doing this out of fear, and closed mindedness. He is then immediately taken back to his holding cell where he is to wait until they are ready for further experiments.


During the middle of the night, our hero is saved. An agent unknown to Taylor helps him to knock out his guard and escape. We soon find out that the unknown agent is the nephew to Dr.Zira, and that he was sent to help him escape with specific instruction to take only him. Taylor refuses to leave without Nova. I do not mention Nova very much prior to now since she is a silent character. She is mostly in the same cage or caged area with Taylor and it is clear they have made a connection to each other. He even tries to teach her English and gives her the name Nova. At this point it is quite understandable as to why he wouldn’t leave her behind. Once out of immediate danger, our escaped prisoners and their saviour meet up with Dr. Zira and Cornelius, who have decided they are all to flee and start a new life in the forbidden zone.


Their journey leads them all to a beach, where they are later found by Dr. Zaius who seems to have known their intentions once discovering that Taylor and Nova in addition to Dr.Zira and Cornelius are all missing. Once together the discussion is reintroduced with Cornelius insisting that there is proof in the cave just above, and that they are there to prove the evidence is in their favour. Dr. Zaius agrees to look at the artefacts and if their theory can be proven, he will leave them all be. Once in the cave, Cornelius explains his findings and where what what they mean. Taylor gives his opinions on the subject and both him and Cornelius are once again shot down by Dr.Zaius. That is, until Nova starts playing with the human doll, she startles herself when she makes the doll speak. This then becomes all the evidence that Taylor needs to make his and cornelius’s theory solid fact. Immediately after, we hear gunshots and the group runs out, leaving Dr. Zaius behind. Unable to stop the assailing apes, Taylor lures Dr. Zaius out, so that he can use him as a hostage to stop the attack. As the apes cease fire, Taylor ties up Dr.Zaius and confronts him about his knowledge on the subject, saying that Dr.Zaius is aware of the relationship between man and ape, and that he is the one who refuses to state the truth of the matter. Dr.Zaius’s quotation of the 29th sacred scroll really explains a lot but leads me to ask more questions. The 29th scroll states, “Beware the beast Man, for he is the Devil’s pawn. Alone among God’s primates, he kills for sport or lust or greed. He will murder his brother to possess his brother’s land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him; drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of death.”. This is proof that not all the sacred scrolls had been widely available, if they were I see no reason why Dr.Zira wouldn’t have brought the scroll as proof that man came before ape. Even though the humans  destroyed themselves, the apes were able to pick up where the humans left off. This also leads me to question why the apes allowed humans to even continue to live. If they were to go so far as to exclude them from society, give them no rights by any means, and destroy any remains of their history to both them and ape kind why not just extinguish them all. By leaving man to live below apes, we allow the question to be posed “How far and how close are we to our human brother” we know this, because it is the bases of Cornelius’s study. If Dr.Zaius worried that humans would tear the rest of their civilization apart, why allow them to live? Maybe it was the fact that they felt themselves above the errors of humans, and that by leaving them alive they are being gracious in giving them further life. When at any point if the humans became too out of hand, they could choose to kill them at a later time.  


Taylor and Nova get ready to leave, and they say they will continue their days alone on the far side of the forbidden zone, and will follow the shore line till they find some where they want to settle. Taylor tries to convince Dr.Zira and Cornelius to join them, but they refuse. Since they have now proven that ape came after man and they have shown Dr.Zaius the light, there is no fear for recourse or retribution for returning to the only society they have ever know. Unfortunately, once Taylor and Nova depart, Dr. Zaius is freed from his bonds and tells the apes to blast the cave, destroying all the evidence. He also informs Dr.Zira and Cornelius that they are to be seized and reprimanded eventually to be thrown in the prison. This is being done to deter other apes from taking interest in matter that Dr. Zaius would rather keep hidden forever.


As for Taylor and Nova, they venture down the beach and around the crags away from the rest of the characters,finding themselves staring at a large dilapidated statue. This is one of the better known parts of the movies, and the part that is usually used as a poster for the newer movies that have been produced. The dilapidated statue is our own lady liberty, the the Statue of Liberty. Falling to his knees Taylor is distraught and shouts “Oh my God. I’m back. I’m home. All the time, it was… We finally really did it…. You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!”. This is the close to our final scene, as we leave Nova and Taylor to start a new life, we slowly recede into the sky where the credits start to roll.


I hope you have enjoyed my rendition of the original Planet of the Apes. I know not everyone will share the same opinion, but if you would like to leave positive criticism or let me know your viewpoints on the points I have brought up, please leave a comment in the comment section below.




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