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  • Writer's pictureMelanie Roussel

Planet of the Apes - the first franchise

Updated: 2 days ago

You might have seen in the news that Chinese scientists have been injecting human brain genes into monkeys. Are we living in the run-up to a world ruled by apes? Probably not. But we can still enjoy the films!

Did you know that Planet of the Apes was a novel first? In 1963, French author Pierre Boulle wrote La Planète des singes. He also wrote Le Pont de la rivière Kwaï aka The Bridge over the River Kwai.


Alice and Wonderland's March Hare

Humanising animals goes back to Aesop's fables, thousands of years ago. And this trope was used in the same way we often use it today. From Alice and Wonderland to George Orwell's Animal Farm, talking animals are used as a parable or social/political satire.

Pierre Boulle's original intentions were to use the world of the apes as a parable on the relationship of man and animal, science and evolution.

This franchise has frequently been used to explore social ideas.

From racism, the Cold War and Vietnam-era politics. As I mentioned in my Nuclear Movies post, the reason the apes have taken ascendancy over humans in the first place was the result of another nuclear holocaust.

On an interesting side note, the man who wrote the original script for the first movie adaptation, Michael Wilson, was blacklisted in the era of McCarthyism.

The recent reboot, however, took a rather religious view on it, turning the main ape character, Caeser into an almost Moses-like figure.

The first franchise?

We might have Apes to thank for the rise of franchises. According to Ryan Lambie in his book The Geek's Guide to SF Cinema, he nods to the franchise as having paved the way for Star Wars.

[Planet of the Apes] sparked something comparatively new in Hollywood; a multimedia franchise, which would soon take in comics, toys, live-action and animated television spin-offs, and a string of movie sequels. Apes therefore paved the way for Star Wars less than a decade later... which would also go on to spawn a colossally popular franchise. The Geek's Guide to SF Cinema

The Geek's Guide to SF Cinema is a tremendous book by the way if you're looking for intelligent articles on the history of sci-fi cinema from the 1920s A Trip to the Moon to Inception.

So, if you feel like going ape, here is a list of all the movies:

Planet of the Apes - 1968 Beneath the Planet of the Apes - 1970 Escape from the Planet of the Apes - 1971 Conquest of the Planet of the Apes - 1972 Battle for the Planet of the Apes - 1973 Planet of the Apes - 2001 Rise of the Planet of the Apes - 2011 Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - 2014 War for the Planet of the Apes - 2017

There's also a Simpsons musical parody, a sure sign you've made it into the cultural zeitgeist. What more could you want?

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