Better than the book? Planet of the Apes
I’m about to head out with my Significant Other to see
the second movie in the second reboot of the movie series (there have also been a live action TV series and an animated series).
Am I a Planet of the Apes (PotA) fan?
Does watching all five movies of the first series in a row in a movie theatre count? ;) Let me take that one step further…I did that…in an ape suit (with a Don Post mask).
I started writing a script (completely unsolicited) for the live action series, although it was canceled before I was finished. My script focused on a stereotype-busting intellectual gorilla…
However, it all started with a French novel:
The novel was published in 1963, and was followed five years later by the Roddy McDowell/Charlton Heston version which was most Americans first encounter with it (at least back then):
That version, by the way, is available at no additional cost as Prime streaming…along with its four direct sequels! Good way to have a good binge watch. ;)
Generally, people tend to think that a book is better than the adaptation of it, and that’s often the case. Part of it just has to do with the nature of the two media: you can put a lot more into a book than you can into a movie, and the special effects are largely unlimited. ;)
This is the rare one, though, where I would submit that the movie (the 1968 version) is better.
It’s not just a question of the translation (I thought the translation I read was quite good).
There are a lot of similarities between the movie and the book…it’s clearly based on it, even with some of the same characters (down to their names).
As regular readers know, I’m very careful about spoilers…and spoiling the 1968 PotA movies is one of the great offenses in that area, in my opinion (along with Psycho, The Sixth Sense…I would argue, even the 1939 Wizard of Oz).
I was not happy recently when a journalist did just that: spoiled PotA, and unnecessarily, in my opinion. They could have left five words out of their piece, and been fine.
The key thing here is that the book and the movie are…different in their ideas (and in their tones). The book is far more philosophical: it’s not intended to read as reality.
The movie is gritty. We are supposed to think it could be happening (given the willing suspension of disbelief about the premise)…that it could be real.
I’ll recommend the book to you: I do think it is worth reading, and it’s only $5.43 at time of writing.
However, I’m also going to recommend the 1968 movie to you…and I feel more confident that most people will enjoy the latter.
One reason for that may be that Rod Serling, of the original Twilight Zone series, co-wrote the script.
As to the other movies in the first series? Well, there’s a whole through story that’s quite interesting, and there are some notable scenes in all of them (one, in particular, has something to say about celebrity culture). Roddy McDowell is brilliant in all of them. :)
I think, though, they do belong squarely in the geek zone (which is where I live)…non-geeks are just not going to enjoy them as much. ;)
What do you think? Are you a PotA fan? What was your first exposure to it? Was it the Tim Burton version? Are there other movies which you think were better than their source material? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post…but no spoilers, please. :)
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