Planet of the Apes is the name commonly used to describe a science fiction franchise, which gained popularity in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In 1963 French novelist Pierre Boulle published a science fiction novel entitled La Planète des Singes. Boulle's novel revealed a dystopic future environment governed by evolved talking apes. Humans were considered second class citizens.
In 1968, 20th Century Fox and producer Arthur P. Jacobs adapted Boulle's story for the big screen. Screenwriters Michael Wilson and Rod Serling (of Twilight Zone fame) altered several key elements of the original story and the first Planet of the Apes movie was released to American audiences on April 6th. Like the novel, the film had classes for the apes; chimpanzees were peaceful citizens and intellectuals, orangutans were aristocratic politicians and scientists, and gorillas were violent authority figures and laborers. The film proved wildly successful and spawned 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).
In 1974, CBS began airing a short-lived live-action Planet of the Apes TV series. Chronologically set between Battle for the Planet of the Apes and the depressing apocalypse of the first two films, the series featured Alan Virdon and Peter Burke as the time-lost astronauts trapped in the future. Veteran ape actor Roddy McDowall returned to the franchise, this time playing the meek chimpanzee, Galen. The series lasted only one season, spanning a total of thirteen episodes.
In 1975, NBC produced the first Planet of the Apes animated series, entitled Return to the Planet of the Apes. The series maintained the same central plot elements as its predecessors, including a group of protagonist human characters who find themselves lost in time. The animated series revised the movie characters of Zira, Cornelius and Zaius, and also featured the mutated humans first shown in 1970's Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Return to the Planet of the Apes lasted only thirteen episodes and was eventually cancelled.
Before Planet of the Apes, science-fiction films had a poor reputation established by a string of risible B-movies such as Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. It was a genre aimed at rowdy, popcorn-throwing, cat-calling audiences rather than those who wanted to be emotionally wrung, intellectually challenged or scared witless. The success of Planet of the Apes, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, however, prompted studios to consider other big-budget sci-fi films. It is no accident that it was 20th Century Fox, the studio that made Planet of the Apes, which backed Star Wars and Alien. Planet of the Apes also laid the foundations of modern film merchandising. It's blitz of toys and other items only really took off at the end of the movie series, but it whetted the appetite for George Lucas’ light sabres a few years later. It is no exaggeration to suggest that without Planet of the Apes, the Star Wars phenomenon and cinema's sci-fi boom might never have happened.
In 2001, movie director Tim Burton released a re-imagined version of the Planet of the Apes mythos. The film starred Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, and Helena Bonham Carter, and centered on an astronaut who crash lands on a primitive planet where evolved genetically altered apes dominate a race of inferior humans. This film retold many events of the original film and ended with a reference to the novel. Burton's film differed greatly from previous incarnations of the franchise and was met with mixed reviews.
Ten years after Burton's remake, in 2011, director Rupert Wyatt reinvented the franchise with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, with a screenplay written by husband and wife duo - and PotA fans - Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver. The film centered on a chimpanzee named Caesar, played by Andy Serkis, who inherited a gene therapy that was a possible cure for Alzheimer's Disease created by a scientist named Dr. Will Rodman, played by James Franco. The chimp reached a point were he felt that his species were oppressed and tortured by man and led a revolution of apes in San Francisco that could end man's dominance over the Earth. The film was a box-office success, with critics and fans loving the new instalment, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Achievement In Visual Effects.
- 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
- Planet of the Apes (TV series)
- Return to the Planet of the Apes
- Planet of the Apes (2001)
- Rise of the Planet of the Apes
- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
- War for the Planet of the Apes
- The Legend of the Planet of the Apes, by Brian Pendreigh - reprinted in 'Night & Day' (2001)