Planet of the Apes
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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Planet of the Apes can be found here.

Three U.S. astronauts -- Taylor (Charlton Heston), Landon (Robert Gunner), and Dodge (Jeff Burton) -- awaken from hypersleep to find that their spaceship has crash landed on an unknown planet where apes are the intelligent species and humans are prelingual and uncivilized. Taylor is captured and held in a cage with human female Nova (Linda Harrison) and befriended by chimpanzee scientists Zira (Kim Hunter) and Cornelius (Roddy McDowall), who are surprised when they learn that Taylor can read, write, and speak. Cornelius believes that Taylor may be a survivor of an ancient human race of which he has found evidence in his archeological digs, but orangutan Minister of Science, Doctor Zaius (Maurice Evans), considers this idea to be heresy and orders Taylor be turned over for brain research.

Planet of the Apes is based on the 1963 novel La Plante des Singes by French writer Pierre Boulle. It was translated into English by British writer and translator Xan Fielding and published as Monkey Planet (1963). The novel was adapted for the screen by American screenwriter Rod Serling, then rewritten by Michael Wilson. It was followed by four sequels: Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972), and Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973).

The spaceship's calendar says that it is Earth year 3978, just over 2000 years after Taylor and his crew took off from Cape Canaveral in 1972. Because they have been traveling at close to the speed of light, they have not aged significantly. To them, it's only been 18 months.

It's unclear as to whether there was an actual hierarchy. Some viewers saw the orangutans on top, the gorillas at the bottom, and the chimps in between. Others felt it was more of a demarcation in preference of professions. The gorillas, with their strength and apparent appreciation for authority, tended to join the military and law enforcement; the orangutans tended to prefer political and religious professions; and the chimpanzees, with their curiosity, seemed to prefer scientific (and probably adventuresome) professions. Given the fact that the apes' philosophy seems fundamentally based on religious doctrines of ape dominance, it is implied that this gives the orangutans, the defendors of the faith, a significant basis of influence (comparable to clerical leaders in deeply religious areas). However you look at the ape hierarchy, one thing was perfectly clear...humans were beneath them all.

Landon was hit in the head with a club during the round-up and, according to Dr Zaius, suffered a skull fracture. Taylor was shot in the neck and was unable to speak for several days (possibly weeks?) afterward. Consequently, many viewers have surmised that Landon may have been screaming and cursing after he was captured and that Dr Zaius had him immediately lobotomized to hide the fact that he was a human with the ability to speak -- people who suffer severe brain injuries often become "altered", that is, their brain starts acting abnormally and they can become belligerent or even violent, which could have been the case with Landon. Although there is no onscreen evidence to prove that's how it happened, it can be noted that Zaius must have known that Landon also had the ability to speak. In the office scene in which Zaius accuses Taylor of being a mutant, Taylor asks "How can the appearance of one mutant send you into a panic?" Zaius replies, "Because you're not unique. There's the one you call Landon."

Even before they met Taylor, Zira and Cornelius were close to discovering Zaius' secret. Zira's studies on animal behavior was beginning to reveal hints as to the true intelligence potential of humankind. Cornelius was poking around the Forbidden Zone, and was starting to unearth artifacts of an advanced pre-ape culture. Dr. Zaius knew they would eventually put their findings together, discover that man was once the dominant species, and confront the Ruling Council with their findings, which would eventually reveal that the Ministry knew the truth all along and was trying desperately to keep it hidden. Zaius and the Council knew about man's potential, as well as their capacity for self-destruction, so it was important that humanity was kept in check; if humans were to be declared equal to apes, they could rise again, and their history of war and destruction would be repeated. As Dr. Zaius tells Taylor near the end, 'All my life I've awaited your coming, and dreaded it.' Even before Taylor enters the picture, Dr. Zaius saw what Zira and Cornelius were close to finding, and this was what he was trying to stop.

How did the apes evolve?

The evolution of apes into sentient beings and humans into mere animals is not explained in the movie. Some viewers have surmised that the apes evolved into more advanced forms after the apparent nuclear war, following which most of humanity was destroyed. Others suggest that surviving apes were affected by the radiation fallout to the effect that they either mutated or evolved very quickly.The remaining humans either were subdued and eventually dumbed down by lack of a structured knowledge or were possibly affected in a negative way by the radiation. In the book, however, the story takes place on a different, but very earth-like, world. There, mankind started using the apes for medical experimentation, ultimately in great masses as part of an all-out effort to cure cancer. They then had these huge numbers of apes and found that they were easily trained to do mundane household tasks. The apes were brought into people's homes to work as domestic servants. This situation went on for several centuries and, at the same time, mankind was getting lazier and lazier. People had apes to do everything for them, while the apes were getting smarter and more discontent with their situation. Eventually, the apes learn to talk and finally they simply take over. Mankind by this time had not only become physically lazy but mentally as well. When the apes take over, humans can put up no resistance.

Talking dolls aren't always driven by batteries. Dolls and pet toys are sometimes driven by a mechanism that "wheezes" when pushed or tilted.

Towards the end of the movie, Zaius lets Taylor go with the warning, "You may not like what you find." This doesn't necessarily mean that Zaius knows about the statue, as the Forbidden Zone has been restricted for centuries and he probably never entered it. However, it is conceivable that at some earlier point in history, some apes entered the zone and encountered the statue; this was instant proof of man's prior superiority on Earth, which went against common doctrine of ape superiority. It is also possible that apes in the early stages of civilization had always known about man's superiority, and invented the doctrine of ape superiority, so that the remaining human population would be kept uncivilized, and could never again become the dominant species. So they decided to declare the area forbidden, and pass on this knowledge to other scientists so that they would keep it secret from ape society. The one thing Zaius does know, as he admits when he tells Taylor, "I have always known about man," is that man was once the dominant primate on the planet. It might also be assumed that Zaius knows it was man who destroyed the Eastern seaboard. This may be what Zaius thinks Taylor may learn if he pokes around in the Forbidden Zone.

The movie does not make it clear what became of the planet's moon. One possibility is that it was blown up and formed a ring of smaller rocks and dust around the planet. That would account for one of the astronauts saying "There's always a 'strange cloud cover at night'." Another possibility is that the story happened during the new moon, so the moon simply wasn't visible.

How does the movie end?

Taylor, Nova, Cornelius, Zira, and Zira's nephew Lucius (Lou Wagner) escape into the Forbidden Zone and travel to the site of Cornelius' archeological dig, but they are followed by Zaius and his band of gorilla police. Holding Zaius at gun point, Taylor forces the gorillas to withdraw and takes Zaius into the cave where Cornelius shows them evidence of an ancient but superior human culture, including a babydoll that talks. Zaius promises to make the find known to the Ape society and not to charge Cornelius and Zira with heresy. Consequently, Cornelius, Zira, and Lucius decide to return to Ape City, while Taylor and Nova take a horse and supplies and begin riding up the beach. Once Taylor and Nova are out of range, Zaius goes back on his promise and orders the cave to be blown up, destroying the artifacts, and guaranteeing that Cornelius and Ziva will be forced to stand trial for heresy. In the final scene, Taylor and Nova continue riding along the shoreline until they come upon a large artifact in the sand. Taylor dismounts, falls to his knees, and screams, 'You maniacs! You blew it up! God damn you all to hell!' The camera pans back to show the broken remains of the Statue of Liberty. Taylor has been on Earth the whole time.

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