War for the Planet of the Apes releases in Australia this week, so it’s time to go back to the original and ask that question once again. Is Planet of the Apes (1968) Still Any Good?

Confession time – I’d never seen Planet of the Apes in its entirety in one sitting before last week. I’d seen bits and pieces on TV for the last 10 years so I’d basically seen it. Shocking, I know. This is a film that if often cited as one of the best in Sci-Fi and after seeing it right through, I wholeheartedly agree.

Charlton Heston stars as George Taylor, an astronaut displaced through time from 1972 to the year 3978. When his craft crashes on a seemingly alien planet and his fellow astronauts killed, Taylor is captured by a bunch of intelligent, horse-riding apes.

The rest is pretty well known. Great ape characters like Cornelius, Zira and the ever parodied (thank you The Simpsons) Dr. Zaius, almost steal the show from Heston. The practical effects, prosthetics and make-up in this film are nothing short of outstanding for the time. Make-up artist John Chambers won an Honoury Academy Award for his efforts in 1968.

The set design is also worth noting. The decision to make the futuristic planet more agrarian than metropolitan helps sell this “new” world that Taylor is thrust into. As much credit as the make-up and set design should get, along with Heston’s performance and Franklin J. Schaffner’s direction, I’ve got to give some praise to screenwriters Rod Serling and Michael Wilson.

Originally based off the novel by Pierre Boulle, the film follows the same idea of human travellers coming across a planet of apes, but the twist ending of the planet being Earth was created by Serling.  The novel has a pretty interesting ending, too – more or less the ending of the 2001 Tim Burton adaptation.

Planet of the Apes is still incredibly enjoyable to watch. Most, if not all of the movie holds up to some degree. You could call Heston’s acting, especially in the closing scene, a little overdone or exaggerated, but it just adds to the movie in my opinion. It’s a classic fish-out-of-water movie. It’s an adventure, with absurd twists, interesting characters and a well written and fleshed out plot. It’a shame the four sequels never quite managed to capture the charm of the original. (Yes, strangely I’d seen all four sequels right through before this one).

So do you think Planet of the Apes is still any good? What do you think of the new movies? Let us know in the comments and on our Facebook page.

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