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The Planet of the Apes (1968)

planet-of-the-apes-posterI promised I would write this post over a month ago and I have finally done it! My only concern is that it’s been over a month since I’ve watched this movie. However, I took notes about some of the things that most stood out to me.

It’s not quite what I was expecting, though I did not expect it to adhere closely to the novel by Pierre Boulle. The book is a satire, an examination of the inevitable decline and de-evolution of civilization and a treatise on how the difference between civilization and savagery is wafer-thin. The movie, on the other hand, seems more about human hubris and self-destruction.

George Taylor (Charlton Heston) and his team of three other astronauts are in hibernation on a spaceship, but it crashes on a planet long before it was supposed to. One astronaut dies, while the other three go out into the new world, searching for any sign of life (even plant life). For the first twenty minutes or so, they travel through vast, barren wastelands and it’s visually stunning…as the men look small, insignificant and lost.

But eventually they run into human life…and simian life. But it’s all reversed. The simians are the sentient beings, while the humans are like animals. Zira (Kim Hunter) and Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) are two chimpanzee scientists who try to help Taylor and who ironically seem like the most human characters of all.

But what first strikes one is what an irascible, egoistic misanthrope Taylor. is He hates humanity, but hates it even more when monkeys are on top while humans are on the bottom…because now it means that he’s treated like he’s on the bottom, despite his own feeling of superiority.

At first, it seemed like the film was going to being partly about religious bigotry, how religion is incompatible with science and Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans) is presented as the dogmatic zealot who will squash the truth at any cost, persecute Taylor and the two scientists for their honest inquiring. But then the movie pulls a switch on the audience. Dr. Zaius is revealed to be – not a religious fanatic, but a pragmatist. Unlike Zira and Cornelius, he always knew that the religion was not true. He also always knew (mostly) the truth about Taylor.

But Zaius believes that humans are inherently violent and that the only way to protect simian civilization is to shun humanity and its civilization and arrogance. He hides the truth, because he believes it will lead to apocalypse. He seems to want to keep simian civilization from developing too far. Though one can’t help but feel that he is fighting a losing battle. One can usually only cover the truth for so long.

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Charlton Heston, Linda Harrison, Kim Hunter, Roddy McDowall, Robert Gunner

But in a way, the film seems to endorse his point of view. He warns about what Taylor will find in the desert (a nuclear wasteland, as it turns out). What Taylor finds is the half buried Statue of Liberty and he realizes that he’s on earth and it destroyed itself with nuclear weapons. Considering his low opinion of humanity, it is surprising how shocked Taylor is by this discovery.

What I was curious about, though, is how representative Taylor is supposed to be of human civilization. Is he an anomaly or representative of the people who nihilistically blew themselves away. I’m inclined to think he’s meant to be representative, since only a misanthrope would be capable of cynically retaliating with nuclear weapons.

What made the policy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) effective between the Soviet Union and America during the Cold War was that neither side wanted to die. They wanted very much to live and one hears stories of government officials emerging from viewing the destructive capacities of their weapons with faces drained of all color, horrified at what could be done. I heard one story of a soviet official who noticed on his radar what looked like a nuclear weapon heading towards Russia. In truth, he should have fired back, but it didn’t make sense to him that America would only send one missal and he held back, believing it to be an anomaly. He was right and he saved the would from destruction.

But what it illustrates is the powerful drive to survive that people have. In that sense, Taylor’s misanthropic impulse to wash his hands of humanity and embark on a mission that will take him thousands of years into the future is nihilistic and an endorsement of the kind of death-wish that leads to mutually assured destruction

Taylor’s lack of faith in anything – religion, humans, civilization – and his endorsement of rebellion (he encourages Zira’s nephew to keep up the good fight of rebellion) does not, in truth, seem sympathetic. It seems symptomatic of what led to death and destruction in the first place. Making Dr. Zaius’s concerns seem oddly valid, if very possibly doomed.

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2016 in Movies

 

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A Remake of Ben-Hur and Movie Remakes in General

MV5BMTQ3NzUzOTc1N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzcwMDkxMTE@__V1_SX214_Waterloo_Bridge_(1931_film)_jpeg I didn’t use to think I was a fan of movie remakes, but it has come my attention that frequently I do like them. I just watched the movie Waterloo Bridge with Vivien Leigh and that was a remake of the 1931 movie starring Mae Clarke (of Frankenstein fame) and directed by James Whale (also of Frankenstein fame). Both movies are actually quite interesting and I liked both, though they are very different. One is a pre-code film (which means it is much more upfront about the main character’s job as a prostitute) and has a definite class element to the story and a bit more of an edge to it. The remake is far more gentle and sentimental (in a good way), more coy about prostitution, and fits the mood much more of 1940, when Europe was at war and people didn’t want the edges of the early ’30s.

I also actually like both movie versions of Sabrina. I saw the 1995 version with Harrison Ford and Julia Ormand first and then was enchanted by the original that was directed by Billy Wilder and stars Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn. I also love both Ninotchka (with Greta Garbo) and the musical remake, with songs by Cole Porter, called Silk Stockings (Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse).

I guess I’m coming around to the idea that you cannot have too much of a good thing, if they really are a good thing. Since I love George Bernard Shaw’s play “Pygmalion;” I also love the movie (with Leslie Howard), the musical “My Fair Lady, multiple cast recordings, and also the movie version of My Fair Lady. I am even about to listen to a radio dramatization of the play.

And I cannot tell you how many different movie versions I have seen of Pride and Prejudice (at least five) and Great Expectations. Of course, there are an awful lot of awful remakes out there, but I am trying not to be judgmental.

But what put all this in my mind is that I just read online that Ben-Hur is going to be remade and will come out in 2016. And I also must confess that, despite all my enforced goodwill for remakes, my first thought was “Oh really? I wonder how that’ll work out.” Old habits of cynicism regarding remakes die hard.

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1925

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1959

Actually, the book Ben-Hur has been remade many times and the famous 1959 movie with Charlton Heston was the third movie adaptation. Published in 1880, it was originally adapted as a play (that must have been fun to stage!) and was then made into an unauthorized movie in 1907. It was fifteen minutes long and Lou Wallace’s estate sued and from then on movie makers were much more careful about getting the copyrights of a book before making a movie. The next version was made in 1925 (still a silent movie) with Ramon Novarro and was a huge hit.

And of course, it was made in 1959, directed by William Wyler and starring Charlton Heston. It was nominated for twelve academy awards and won eleven of them, a record it shares with Titanic and Return of the King. There was also an animated Ben-Hur made in 2003, with Heston providing the voice of the main character. And there was a 2010 miniseries made in Britain with Joseph Morgan in the main role and a supporting cast that includes Ray Winstone and Hugh Bonneville (of Downton Abbey fame).

Apparently, Jack Huston has been cast as the eponymous Ben-Hur. He is best known for his role in the show Boardwalk Empire, which I have never seen so I cannot judge whether or not he is a good choice. The producers of The Bible miniseries, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, will be executive producers and it will be directed by Timur Bekmambetov, who has directed such movies as Wanted, Night Watch, and Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. I will try and quash my doubts and wish them luck!

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2014 in Movie Thoughts

 

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