Planet of the Apes Book vs Movie Review

Planet of the Apes by Peirre Boulle (1963)

Planet of the Apes directed by Franklin J. Schaffer (1968)

At the end of the video I will also be sharing some thoughts on the 2001 Tim Burton adaptation.

This is subscriber month, so every book vs movie was suggested by one of my subscribers and this was a pick made by 55itsme! Make sure you subscribe if you have not already, that way you can take part in future book vs movie polls and make suggestions for future subscriber months!

I am going to get right into the plot details, which means we are getting into book and movie spoilers right from the start!

Book and movie setup

The book begins with a couple in space who find a message in a bottle. The message they read takes up the majority of the book and initially we are assuming the couple are humans, but by the end we learn that they are apes who believe the story must be made up because the idea of a man with high intelligence seems so far-fetched.

In the man’s story (I am going to call him Taylor since that is his movie name), he was on a ship from earth in present day and traveling to a distant planet far into the future, along with two other men and a chimp (who is quickly killed by a woman they first come across on this planet). The shuttle they used to get to the planet also ends up being destroyed by the humans that inhabit the planet.

The movie begins with Taylor and his crew in space. When they awake from their deep sleep, they are crash landing in the ocean, ruining their craft, on a distant planet. In the movie, it is three male astronauts and one female. Taylor later says how she was to be their “Eve” on this new planet but was that really the idea?? If procreation was a goal, why would they not at least have had two women and two men? They are putting it all on one woman to have babies??  She dies though, so it is just Taylor and two other men.

Humans and apes

In both, Taylor and the others see that they have landed on a planet where humans are animal-like, and the apes are the dominate species. After finding a wild pack of humans, gorillas show up and begin hunting and capturing people. Taylor is one that is captured and sent to a lab where there is a chimp named Zira who is one of the scientists doing different studies on humans, the way we study chimps here on earth. He is able to show her that he is as smart as she, not a dumb animal like the other humans.

In both, there is an orangutang, Dr. Zaius, who is high ranking and doesn’t want to believe that Taylor is smart and in both, even when he knows it to be true, he tries to hide the truth and acts like it is ridiculous. (Are there any Simpsons fan? There is an episode where they have a stage musical of Plaent of the Apes and while reading this book I would get the Dr. Zaius song stuck in my head lol)

Book plot

In the book, Taylor is able to give a speech at a meeting where hundreds of apes are in attendance, and they are amazed at his intelligence and becomes accepted into their community and he begins to work alongside Zira’s fiancé, Cornelius. He is on the planet for many months, and during that time, a human he had been paired with back before Zira knew he was smart whom he had sex with named Nova, has Taylor’s son. The apes are already starting to be wary of Taylor though and even Cornelius is becoming resentful. Taylor’s son is clearly going to be smarter as well, and they don’t want Taylor starting a new line of smart humans who could overthrow the apes.

Zira, who falls in love with Taylor, helps Taylor, his son, and Nova, escape the planet and get back to his spacecraft which has been orbiting this whole time. They return to earth; however, they see that earth too has been reverted to a planet where apes are in charge.

Movie plot

In the movie, Taylor is never accepted by the apes and untimely runs away with Zira and Cornelis to the Forbidden Zone where they find artifacts that prove Cornelius’s theories, that apes came from another species-humans. Zaius shows up and tells them he has known this for a long time, but it is his duty to keep the public from finding this out. Part of his job as defender of the faith is to make sure no human is allowed to become intelligent because history has taught them that humans are dangerous and destructive.

Taylor decides he is still going to run off with Nova, there is no baby in this version, and as he rides away with her, he sees the remains of the Statue of Liberty. Showing that not only that the apes became smarter than the humans, but that the humans were so war hungry and destructive, they ruined the planet and each other.

Taylor/How apes took over

I kind of already touched on this as far as the movie goes, but Zaius says how humans are who made parts of their world so desolate. Zaius says of men, “I have always known about man. From the evidence, I believe his wisdom must walk hand and hand with his idiocy. His emotions must rule his brain. He must be a warlike creature who gives battle to everything around him, even himself.” And then we hear them read the sacred scrolls, part of which reads, “Beware the beast Man, for he is the Devil’s pawn. Alone among God’s primates, he kills for sport or lust or greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother’s land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him; drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of death.” This is why Zaius was wanting to hide the truth and get rid of Taylor.

Taylor realizes this isn’t some distant human race on another planet-but his own human race that caused the desolation and destruction which led to apes taking over. We saw at the beginning of the movie that he was very jaded and bitter about the human race, and this realization at the end shows that he was proved right in all of his negativity. At the start, he says how he wants to see if in the future, on another planet, if man will still kill each other in war and how he is hoping that somewhere in the universe there is a creature better than man. (it’s not that complicated though Taylor, just put women in charge loool).

But we see that humans on earth were killing each other off and caused so much destruction, that the apes were able to take over.

In the book, the humans started to use apes as servants in one way or another, as well as experimenting on them, and the humans started to get lazy. The apes began to grow smarter and smarter, before taking over and pushing the humans into the fringes of the city where they became more and more animalistic. Apes were also taught to copy humans, to the point that they were ableto copy the human existence. Since all they could do was mimic humans though, they had not made their own scientific advancements.

We find this out through a human in the book that Cornelius has caused to speak different histories. I didn’t really understand how this was possible and didn’t think they explained why this human was able to tell the histories of various individuals.

Cornelius

In the movie, even before Taylor, Cornelius believes that apes evolved from humans, but this is controversial and apes try and shut down this line of thinking. Dr. Zaius is highly respected and he is the head of the science committee as well as the religious committee. As said, he knows this is true, but he believes it is in the public’s interest to keep this information from them. Cornelius and Zira are there to help Taylor throughout all of the movie.

In the book, Cornelius starts to think this but isn’t until later in the story. He also begins to be resentful of Taylor and what he represents. In the end he helps Taylor, but only because Zira has fallen in love with Taylor in a way and so Cornelius wants him gone. He also doesn’t want Taylor starting a new, smart species of human.

I did think it was interesting that in the book he is pretty much the only ape who does not have a name that starts with Z. I also liked that in the book his relationship with Cornelius starts to sour, I found this to be an interesting direction the book takes.

Other changes/similarities

In the movie, Taylor is shot with a dart in the neck and this is why he can’t speak to Zira and prove he is smart. In the book, the apes speak a different language and so when he speaks, it is just gibberish to them anyway, even though most humans just make animal sounds. In both, he writes on a pad and this is what helps convince Zira. In the book, they meet secretly and teach each other their respective languages. In the movie though when he is finally able to speak, he says the iconic line, “Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!” I had forgotten that this line comes at such a pivotal moment-the moment they hear him speak for the first time!

In both, one of the men he was with was killed, but the other is captured alive. In the book, he sees this man in a zoo exhibit and is later able to go see him and talk to him. However, the man has gone insane and no longer acts like a smart human and seems to have given himself over to the animalistic way of the other humans.

In the movie, he finds this man but sees that Zaius has performed some sort of lobotomy which has made the man like a zombie. I like this better because it seemed too fast in the book that the guy would be so far gone and not even register when Taylor later talks to him. It also shows how sinister Zaius is, and again, how he knew the truth all along but acted like he didn’t believe it. And even though I just called him sinister, at the end of the movie you can understand why he kept trying to stop Taylor and the progression of the human species.

Themes of book and movie

The book is definitely showing how inhumane animal testing is as well as the dangers of becoming lazy and putting the work on other species other than ourselves. Also showing the arrogance of humans and the dangers that brings with it. Considering this was 1963, it seems the book was ahead of its time in some ways as far as animal rights go. But then again, this was a French author and I’m pretty sure France and Europe in general have been ahead of the US as far as that goes.

The movie is also a cautionary tale of the arrogance of humans, but rather than focus more on animal rights, it is focused on war and religion I would say. Though the book does have the apes debating whether or not a human has a soul. But the humans ruined themselves due to their destructive tendencies, and then we have the ape religion that wants to keep the apes in the dark (for their own good they say). Kind of how Dune shows how religion can be used against people and as a way to control them, that’s in part, what this movie shows as well. Evolution isn’t a focus of the book but it was a bigger aspect of the movie, which again goes back to the religious themes of the movie since a lot of religions for example don’t believe in evolution.

Book vs movie

The script was written by the legendary Rod Serling of The Twilight Zone which I hadn’t know until now! I love The Twilight Zone and grew up watching that. I also have fond memories watching this movie when I was a kid. I specifically remember TCM having a Planet of the Apes weekend where they played all of the old movies and I have fond memories of my family watching them all.

I am biased towards the movie due to that, as well as the fact that is has just become so iconic in so many ways. You have the line I mentioned earlier, but his last couple sentences in the movie are also so iconic that you could quote it to someone and they would recognize it. When I try to see the book and movie objectively, even then I think I would say the movie is an improvement. The movie also came out about 5 years after the book and I think the changes it made in its themes applied to what was happening in the world at that time. The book is also by a French author, whereas the movie puts its American spin on it.

I was surprised at how bitter Taylor is in the movie. As the protagonist I thought he would be more likeable but he starts out so callous and making fun of and laughing the man who tries to have a brighter outlook. He has his own evolution through the movie, but it all comes crashing down when he sees the Statue of Liberty at the end.

And I have to mention the make up on the apes which was so well done and another thing that makes this movie so amazing!

So when it comes to book vs movie, the movie wins! So far, my three subscriber picks have all been movie winners! I am curious if next week will follow suit!

2001 Tim Burton movie

Before closing out, I did want to share some quick thoughts on the 2001 adaptation directed by Tim burton. There are so many Apes movies, but this is the other one I wanted to talk about since it is considered more of an adaptation of the book whereas the other movies just go off of their own plot.

This movie wasn’t as similar to the book or 68 movie as I had expected though. For starters, the humans can talk and are much smarter than their book counterparts. It seems like the movie took the idea of how apes came to be in charge in the book and reversed it. In the movie, the apes are the ones getting lazy, and relying on humans too much and some feel like humans are getting too smart.

In the beginning, we see that the main character is on a space ship that has a lot of monkeys, and we learn that they had crashed onto this planet that the main character finds himself, and it was these chimps that were the first on this planet which became the planet of the apes and the humans on the ship were the ones pushed to the outer fringes, which again was similar to the book.

But another element that was interesting, is that this takes place as a sequel to the Heston movie because he is referenced by a dying Dr. Zaius who is actually plated by Charlton Heston (who repeats him famous last lines “God damn them all to hell”)! But he talks about Taylor from the first movie which made me wonder if he had kids with Nova which led to a smarter breed of humans over time. I think this is a nice touch as well and of course it was awesome that they got Heston to make a cameo.

Another thing from the book that is here, the main character is able to get in a spaceship and return to earth, but like the book, he sees that earth too is now run by apes.

While I can apricate that they include these aspects of the book while also incorporating this movie into the universe of the ’68 movie, even so, this movie was kind of boring and in general was just not good. I also think I like the practical effects better in the old movie because while in some cases it looks more advanced here, they also just have this weird look, especially with the females, because they try to make them too human-like while still being monkeys. Speaking of which, here the apes act more apish at times which is also like the book. Whereas in the 68 movie they really didn’t act like apes at all.

But in general, I would say to skip the 2001 adaptation unless you just really want to cross every Planet of the Apes movie off of your to-watch list.