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Planet of the Apes

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Essay title: Planet of the Apes

Planet of the Apes

When Planet of the Apes opened in theaters, few people knew what to expect. To most, the idea of a movie with the premise of a planet full of intelligent apes went against everything they had been taught. The initial attraction was the superb cast, spearheaded by Charlton Heston who portrays Taylor, an astronaut who crashes onto the planet. Heston was joined by many popular actors and actress such as, Roddy McDowell as Cornelius, Maurice Evans as Dr. Zaius and Kim Hunter as Zira. Though the cast may have been the initial draw, the content is what has made the movie Planet of the Apes a classic that will continue to be enjoyed for generations to come.

The movie Planet of the Apes deals with a great number of issues that come up in everyday societal life. If one looks closely at the story, it is very easy to realize that Planet of the Apes is not at all about apes, but truly about mankind. It is a story about the human condition, and the way humans interact with their natural environment. It is a story about the dangers of religion, and even more powerfully a warning about the dangers of a politically active church.

Planet of the Apes is a political allegory. From the beginning to the end of the film, the viewer is shown a picture of a world ruled by a heavy handed government, and led by apes that represent the church and state alike. The main character that is an example of this is Dr. Zaius, “Chief Prosecutor and Defender of the Faith,” who rules both nation and state with an equally closed mind. For most Americans, this is unheard of. One of the founding principles of the United States of America is a division of church and state. To us, having one individual controlling both seems not only preposterous, but also dangerous. The American mind immediately concludes that a system such as this will lead to stagnation in science, and close-mindedness in religion.

In Planet of the Apes this stagnation does occur. When a young upstart scientist named Cornelius tries to attack the religiously based view of life in his society he is brought up on charges of heresy. Cornelius merely attempted to state that he had found evidence that apes had evolved from man. Defender of the faith Dr. Zaius then quickly ended the hearings and threatened Cornelius with charges of hearsay. This is a direct link to our own past. Charles Darwin challenged religions view on the origins of life in the 1800’s, and frighteningly similar things occurred to him.

This is what Planet of the Apes attempts to do, and accomplishes so thoroughly. It mirrors things that have happened in our own world, yet portrays them in a way that makes humanity’s own shortcomings more palatable. Yet, there are two ways of interpreting the lessons the film teaches. On one level, Planet of the Apes blatantly warns individuals not to repeat the past. While on another level, the director could be interpreted to be stating subtly that we did not learn from our past and are therefore doomed to repeat it. These interpretations wholly depend on the individual seeing the film.

Planet of the Apes also very plainly alludes to government conspiracies and the fear that the government tries to keep the people in-line through ignorance. This can be seen in the discussion between Dr. Zaius and Taylor. In this discussion, Dr. Zaius plainly states that even though he had been feigning ignorance about the past intelligence of mankind, he knew it all along. He goes on to state that he had been keeping that knowledge from his fellow apes because apes needed an unquestionable religion to maintain

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