Thursday, September 18, 2014

Beneath the Planet of the Apes Through a Kid’s Eyes

My daughter certainly didn’t find the happy ending she was looking for at the end of the first film in the second installment.

In fact, even though she complained about having to see the sad part from the original’s finale again, it was one of the happier moments watching the 1970 sequel.

Likely a big reason for this is Roddy McDowall being in the reused scenes, before David Watson took over in the few chimpanzee bits in the remainder of the film.  They thought we wouldn’t notice under the monkey makeup, but they were excessively wrong.

The Cornelius change was only one of several elements that dropped in quality due to a lesser substitute.  James Franciscus was a fine actor, but his attempts to utter a Heston quality level, “DAMN!” were woefully subpar. 

At least Nova came back…

Shut up.

While there were no butts in this outing (although the “naked monkeys” in the steam room were a bit unnerving) there was far more blood and violence than even a PG would get these days, nevermind a G.  This is why kids need violence in comic books and video games today; the MPAA is depriving them of their needed amounts in the theater.

There was quite a bit of grief and complaining from my daughter about the ending that was “worse than the first one.”  It reached a crescendo with multiple big “NO” moments as each of the principal human characters died, and transitioned into a sustained funk after the world was destroyed by a bomb apparently controlled by Kryptonian technology.

We may never watch The Ten Commandments now that she found out all the death and world blasting was Charlton Heston’s idea, and she took to referring to the Oscar winning actor as “A big poop.”

Once again, high marks for the movie being able to generate emotional involvement since she called out to Brent throughout the film to warn him he was on Earth.

Due to the tiles, she thought Grand Central Station was a large bathroom at first, but immediately recognized the intended location once Radio City Showed up. It’s interesting that after all those centuries; only items from the 1960’s were intact.

She was puzzled as how “normal” humans could have survived, until she saw that they were gross. This added to the remorse at the end, because there were only four people she liked in the whole film (Taylor, Nova, Brent and Zira…Cornelius was fake.)

There were, as always with the original Apes series, plenty of opportunities for teaching her about Twentieth Century history through the social commentary.

Watching the hippie chimpanzees protest the Orangutan government backed Gorilla Army (Led by Barney Miller’s Inspector Luger) was one such moment. 

Why the Gorilla Army marched under a gay pride rainbow flag is something I didn’t attempt to conjecture about, however.

Her music classes in school helped by letting her pick up how the hymns in the Mutant church were sung in a minor key, with an occasional wrong note, to make them sound scary. 

The lyrics to those songs were just one demonstration of the possible dangers of blindly following organized religion.  While prevalent throughout the series, it was heavier handed in this one.  It also showed up in other aspects of the mutants’ “church,” and through the zealot like behavior of the Gorilla Army.  However, these were counterbalanced by the fact that Doctor Zaius, the main religious leader figure, alone had the courage to pass through the horrifying illusions in the Forbidden Zone because of the strength of his unshakeable beliefs.

Oddly, considering he was the primary threat in the original film, the simian Minister of Science and Chief Defender of the Faith could be seen as the hero of the second adventure.

It went well beyond how his faith and bravery made him the only character to overcome the illusions of the mutants with no outside help.

More importantly – every statement and accusation he made about MAN in Planet of the Apes was correct.  Humans (or their radioactive descendants) were far worse (amoral, cruel, and fanatical) than the ape society. 

And Taylor was the one who blew up the world.

If Zaius’s plan was followed, the mutants would have been wiped out, the Forbidden Zone left…um…forbidden and life would have continued.

Heck, if he managed to accomplish what he hoped in the first movie, eliminating, or at least silencing Taylor, there wouldn’t have been an excursion into the Forbidden Zone at all.

There would be no galvanizing force behind the Gorilla uprising, ape society would have continued, the mutants would have stayed underground, bound by their self-imposed slavery to ritual, and no one would have died.

Hey, I’m fishing for at least an imaginary happy ending here.  There’s a long way to go before we hit anything resembling a real one in this film series.

Key Surprise Statement:


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