Sunday, December 7, 2008

Reflections on the Planet of the Apes

I am a huge fan of the Planet of the Apes series. The movies, the television show, even the cartoon. Growing up, I had all the action figures, the play sets, the Marvel Comics magazine, the record album (they had a live tour show to promote the album, and I went to it three times while it was at the Morris County Mall; "Cornelius" signed my album, as I recall). And of course a crush on Linda Harrison. By the way, there as no 2001 film, as has been widely reported. Never happened. Nope.

On Thanksgiving weekend, Fox Movie Channel played nothing but Apes. All of the original films, multiple times. The movies they made by mashing two of the television episodes together. Tons of mini-documentaries in between. I was in hog heaven. But it also got me thinking about some issues with the Apes time-line, and what do you know? I happen to write a blog that might be a good fit for those thoughts.

As with most things involving time travel (occasioned by when Cornelius, Zira, and Milo go back in time to 1973) there are two timelines in Apes. T1 is the "original" timeline, created before the paradox of the three apes time-travel was introduced. In T1, we know that Taylor et al take off from Earth in the spaceship Icarus in 1972. Brent does too, on his rescue mission. Cornelius tells us (in "Escape") that sometime after that, the dogs and cats of Earth would be wiped out by a plague, and eventually replaced by apes. Eventually those apes would be enslaved, and revolt on an historic day when an ape named Aldo dared to speak up and say "no", sparking the ape revolution, presumably the nuclear war that wiped out human civilization, and leading to a time when humans were mute and their glorious history forgotten. That's the time we see in the original film, in the year 3955.

However, that timeline is thrown into chaos, and a new timeline (T2) created by the time-travel of the three apes as recorded in "Escape". The introduction of the baby Milo (aka Caesar) changes everything. No longer is it Aldo who leads the ape revoltion, but Caesar. The dog and cat plague happens on schedule, in 1981, but the revolution happens in 1991. We get the impression that in T1, the apes were enslaved for much more than ten years; Cornelius seems to imply that it lasts for centuries. But in T2 the whole process is accellerated; Caesar leads the ape revolt after only a decade of servitude (less than that, as it would have taken some time to ramp-up the whole institution of Ape Management).

Aldo is still there in T2, but now he is forced to play second bannana (heh) to Caesar in the post-nuke ape/human society we see in "Battle". Given the glorious role he seemed destined to play in T1, it turns him into a somewhat more sympathetic figure. His thunder was stolen by Caesar, even if he had no way of actually knowing it.

The events at the very beginning and ending of "Battle" show the very different direction that T2 has taken. Rather than being persecuted and descending towards mute savagery, humans and apes seem to be at a rough level of equivalancy. This, I think, is where the television show come into play. Apes are in charge in the year 3085, but humans are at least equal technologically. The change of Caesar for Aldo as leader of the ape revolt has set history on a different course.

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