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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 8/9/00

Planet of the Apes: The Evolution

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Note that this review currently only includes the original Planet of the Apes and the Behind the Planet of the Apes documentary from The Evolution set. We will expand this review to include all the films in the set when it is released.

Planet of the Apes

Planet of the Apes
1967 (2000) - 20th Century Fox

Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/A/C

Specs and Features

112 mins, G, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch 46:14 in chapter 13), theatrical trailers (Planet of the Apes, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Battle for the Planet of the Apes), cross-promotional ad, weblink, cast listing, photo gallery, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English and Spanish, Closed Captioned

Behind the Planet of the Apes Behind the Planet of the Apes
1998 (2000) - 20th Century Fox

Film Rating: A+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/B/C

Specs and Features

120 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch 55:00 in chapter 11), theatrical trailers (Planet of the Apes, beneath the Planet of the Apes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Battle for the Planet of the Apes), cross-promotional ad, TV spot for Behind the Planet of the Apes, commercial for the Planet of the Apes video game, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (22 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0) subtitles: English and Spanish, Closed Captioned

"Take your stinking paws off me you damn, dirty ape!"

Before I start my review, let me ask something. Why, oh, why is Fox packaging the Planet of the Apes set the way they are? I mean... do we really need to see this film's twist ending right there on the cover? I'm not a naive guy - I know that the image is a pop cultural icon, and everyone SHOULD already know the ending of the film. But come on! This film's secret sits there staring you right in the eye! Sure, everyone who is over 28 years old knows full well how this flick ends, and thanks to episodes of The Simpsons, everyone under that age knows as well. But seriously... in years to come will Buena Vista come out with "She's a Guy!" on the cover of The Crying Game? Or "Bruce Willis is really bald!" on the cover of The Sixth Sense? I doubt it. See... just to illustrate my point, I've ruined those two movies for you. See what Fox made me do?

Planet of the Apes is a movie that many of us as kids loved. It had everything a great movie needs - talking primates, Chuck Heston in a loin cloth, an actress hot enough to make even adolescents realize how hot she was and, of course, talking primates. Yes folks... there's talking primates in this film, and for that alone we've showered praise up and down for this film. Does anyone still have their Planet of the Apes Mego action figures from the 70s? I've probably broken all of mine, but I had a pretty good collection going back in the day. I even had the playset with the net and bridge. Ahhh... memories. Unfortunately, looking at Planet of the Apes with adult, film lover's eyes, I see a film that hasn't aged all that well. The sets are pretty cool, but the special effects (at least in the space portion of the film) are, for the most part, pretty cheesy. With all the human characters, the performances are as stiff as... well, I dunno what, but they're stiff. I enjoy all the apes though. What the heck - there's some good stuff here. Sure, it's all dated. But wow - for this being a 1968 flick, it's pretty impressive (impressive enough to warrant a special achievement Oscar).

PotA (I'm just going to write that from now on - so there) is a great film simply because we remember it being great. Sure, I can whip it like a disagreeable monkey, but what's the point? Too many people love this film, warts and all. And damnit, so do I. PotA is much more than a movie, it's a childhood memory, and for that I'm going to give the flick a break. Will you love it if you haven't seen it? I can't answer that, but give it a try. Worse movies have achieved greatness through their faults. Star Wars anyone?

PotA starts at the tail end of an intergalactic trip headed up by astronaut George Taylor (Heston). They are out to prove the Hasslein's theory, which says that if you travel near the speed of light, you seem to age at a normal rate, while your home planet ages many times faster. So if you come back after, say 18 months, your planet will have aged 2,000 years. I don't know if that's the proper math, but you get the point. Taylor's team is composed of 4 people (3 men and their "eve") and they're about to go into hypersleep before they get back to Earth. As they settle in their cryotubes for a long winter's night, Taylor makes one last "captain's log" entry, wondering if man still battles his brother, or if (after all these years) they've brought peace to the Earth. Can you say, "foreshadowing"? I knew you could.

Unfortunately, their trip is interrupted when they crash land on a desolate planet inhabited by primates who can walk, think and talk. But much like Earth, these apes hunt for sport... and their favorite prey is humans (and there are plenty of humans on this planet, all living like animals). When Taylor gets caught and shot in the throat, he's taken care of by a zoologist named Zera (Kim Hunter) and slowly he gains the knowledge that humans cannot speak and are the primitive species on this planet. After healing, Taylor shows that he can speak, which causes a huge uproar among the apes. Zera's husband, a young archeologist named Cornelius (Roddy McDowell), comes to his aid, but to no avail. Taylor then has no other recourse but to escape with his cell mate Nova (Linda Harrison) and the hunt is on. In the end, the harsh reality of both ape and human history on this planet will show its hidden, twisted truth. And it won't be pretty for either side.

Even in a vague, capsulated form, that's some great storytelling, especially when it's told to children. All of the shocks, the apes' human mannerisms and even the now spoiled ending had me right up to the end. I remember that feeling of seeing the ending of this film as a kid and realizing for the first time what the heck was going on. I think it was because of that moment that I love this film so much. Maybe it made me feel smart somehow, for having figured something out for myself at such a young age - I don't know. The film was simple enough to engross me and, in the end, it showed that it had me for good reason. That's just plain old good filmmaking. Now... as I said above, this film hasn't aged very well effects-wise. In today's world, this flick would have been a joke (but with Tim Burton behind the remake that's in the works, you'll have to fight me for the middle seat on opening night). But for all the nits I can pick, once you get through the opening space stuff (and partway through the dated designs involving the crash and exploration suits), you have a film that really is ageless. Well... except for some of the background monkey suits. But how can a movie set amongst rocks and sticks age? Anyone can come to this flick and love it as much as my fellow fans and me.

Even if they didn't think too hard about the package art, Fox has given us another great DVD set. PotA is part of a six-disc set, Planet of the Apes: The Evolution, and judging from the first film, this set is going to rock. This is the last (we were promised that) non-anamorphic title to be released from Fox. But even if it's not 16x9, it still looks pretty damn good. It's THX certified (which, at this point means absolutely nothing to most DVD fans, but so be it) and it shines as much as it can. There have been some screwy versions of this film released in other formats and it's nice to see it looking so good here. The colors are very pretty and the blacks hold up well for the most part. There's some damaged source print materials here and there, but the film is old... what are you going to do? On the sound side, this audio is a winner. There's both a Dolby Digital 5.1 track (all-new fangled and stuff) and a retro Dolby 2.0 track. If you're an apehead, you'll be plenty pleased. And boy-oh-boy... Jerry Goldsmith's brilliant score has never sounded so good.

Fox is also looking out for the collector's out there. You can get PotA all by its lonesome, but also as a boxed set with its four sequels and a 6th disc which includes the bonus documentary, Behind the Planet of the Apes, that was originally broadcast on AMC. It's a great doc, man. I enjoyed it when it was originally on and I enjoyed watching it again. It looks and sounds great on DVD, and I'm really glad to have it in my collection now. Just about everything you can think of is covered in its 2 hour length, and it's even hosted by the late, great Roddy McDowall. This disc even has a set of its own extras (all the trailers, the original ad for the documentary on AMC and a weird commercial for a Doom-esque video game based on the film). This documentary is a good enough reason to buy the boxed set all by itself. Never fear though... if you go for the original film by itself, you'll find anamorphic menu screens (to quote Moe from The Simpsons "whaaaaa?"), trailers for all the Apes films, an ad for the boxed set, a lame photo gallery and an even lamer cast list (with no bio material - just a list). Just keep in mind that if you're looking for insight into the film, you'll definitely have to go for the documentary in the boxed set.

Fans should definitely buy the whole Planet of the Apes: The Evolution boxed set. But if you're skimping on pennies, then the first film alone will do you just fine. I love this film, and I hope you do too. If you haven't seen it... well, see it. And see it before the new Tim Burton remake comes out. Just try not to look at the jacket art. I know it'll be hard. Have someone you know (that has seen the film already) pick it up for you, and load it into the player. Wait... that won't work. The stupid art's already on the top of this page. Fox, you maniacs! Damn you! Damn you all to hell!

Okay... not really. I'm just kidding. Keep up the good work, Fox. ;-)

Todd Doogan
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Planet of the Apes

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