The end of Planet of the Apes may give the impression of a further story. But, if you think about it, there is not much to explore. Taylor (Charlton Heston) has realised that earth is destroyed, and he is the only speaking human on the planet. He has Nova (Linda Harrison) and, originally, an ending was toyed with whereby Nova and Taylor had a child, but this was scrapped for the Statue of Liberty finale. It was 1970 and, in terms of sequels, they only had a few around to be inspired by. Paul Dehn was hired to write the screenplay, a writer who co-wrote Goldfinger, a sequel that completely re-invented the James Bond franchise. Though, like the James Bond films, Dehn seems to think that the best way to continue to Planet of the Apes story, is by imitating the basic set-up of the previous film. In terms of 007 influencing the Apes, I think a tunnel-sequence does seem to recall a little bit of Dr No. But Dehn does seem to go a different direction in the final few acts – with an ending you won’t see coming.
This time, the ship is on a rescue mission to save the astronaunts in the first film. Brent (James Franciscus) is the only survivor. Unsure what to do, he comes across Nova who is wearing Taylors dogtags. Through a series of flashbacks, we realise that Nova and Taylor continued to travel through The Forbidden Zone after realising they were on planet Earth. Taylor and Nova witness the ground breaking up, and fire emerges, until suddenly Taylor disappears – leaving Nova alone. Brent and Nova travel to the Ape City and the council are in session. The Gorilla’s are keen to explore The Forbidden Zone and destroy all human life as, because of Taylors actions, the Apes do not trust humans anymore and know that they present a threat.
So far, it is very much the same. Nova and Brent soon find Cornelius (The only film in the original franchise to not include Roddy McDowell, instead casting David Watson) and Zira (Kim Hunter), who again, trust the humans. But unlike the first film, the Apes are not as fearful about exploration. The Gorillas are keen to explore for the sake of dominance and power. We see similar sequences as Gorillas chase the humans, but this time Zira assists them in escaping too. Almost by accident, as Brent hides, he realises the planet is Earth himself and he explores underground to find a hidden human race who worship the A-Bomb. This is where the film becomes very strange and, changes direction completely to the first film. Humans exist and they are powerful, using their minds to control others…
Planet of the Apes attacked people who blindly followed a faith – the idea that true exploration and discovery is hindered by those of a particular doctrine. The dwellers who exist underground are humans who have been irreversibly scarred. Though the people ‘beneath’ the planet are ‘Peaceful People’, they have the power to control other peoples minds and will comfortably let others kill each other rather than commit murder themselves. Opposed to the society established by the Apes, ignorant to the reality outside of their own borders, these dwellers are arrogant and pray to a bomb. An A-Bomb.
This is where the full strangeness of the film kicks-in. We witness a prayer ceremony, very-much modelled on Catholic Mass. The repetition of traditonal prayer mixed with uncomfortable, bomb-related notions.
“Glory be to the Bomb, and to the Holy Fallout. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. World without end. Amen”
“May the Blessings of the Bomb Almighty, and the Fellowship of the Holy Fallout, descend upon us all. This day and forever more.”
This is where, originally an attack on religious-dogma and blind-faith, appears to be more specific in attacking Catholicism and the corrupted “history” attached to the faith. Words have been switched from “Glory be to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”, so that slight changes are highlighted. Over time, it seems, words and meaning have changed. How can we still stick to a Bible, a document thousands and thousands of years old, when clearly its true meaning and intent could have been changed?
Akin to fundamentalistm and terrorism, these religious characters are dangerous and, though they do not believe it, they are a threat to the society they represent. Their humanity has been replaced by a deeply-rooted sense of purpose – the bomb. They can force the Apes to see visions which are untrue as if to highlight how faith is beyond what you can see in front of you, and what is around you. It is this same attitude to faith that ensures Dr Zaius (Maurice Evans) and General Ursus (James Gregory) push through the vision and manage to break past. These apes have seen too much – and no image will satisfy their deep-desire for dominance of the planet. Both faiths are in opposition and we see the age-old argument as two conflicting dogma’s compete for control of a civilisation.
So often, to mock the ‘don’t spoil it’ attitude of others, I will use a nuclear bomb as an example of what the film includes (“Don’t tell me what happens at the end of The Deer Hunter!”/”Of course I won’t, as long as nobody has told you about the nuclear-bomb explosion, you should be fine!” *applause*). Word to the wise, don’t mention that finale for this film because that does indeed happen. Before the bomb even goes off, the vast majority of the cast are killed off, and Taylor, struggling to stand manages to limp to the bomb and set it off. Boom. Credits.
The fear of the unknown has stopped true peace. Again, man destroys itself in it’s efforts for dominance. Charlton Heston returned for his role under the assumption that this would be the end of the Planet of the Apes saga – indeed, he never returns until Tim Burtons Planet of the Apes in 2001. But, the producers had other plans. The final act shows the fight between Brent and Taylor amongst the deformed-humans and Gorilla Apes, with Dr Zaius alongside them – until the bomb hits, killing them all off. Cornelius and Zira were not amongst the fighters though, and for good reason …