Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Planet of the Apes
Planet of the Apes is a novel by Pierre Boulle, originally published in French as La Planète des Singes and also translated as Monkey Planet (translator Xan Fielding). It is an example of social commentary through dystopia.
It has been made into a movie twice and a musical once:
- Planet of the Apes (1968), directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and starring Charlton Heston
- Planet of the Apes (2001), directed by Tim Burton and starring Mark Wahlberg
- Planet of the Apes (musical) starred Troy McClure
The success of the original Planet of the Apes (1968) movie led to several sequels, none as critically acclaimed as the original:
- 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)
Return to the Planet of the Apes was an animated series from the Saturday-morning golden-era of the 1970s for cartoons. The series was, of course, derived from the book, and vastly different movie, of The Planet of the Apes; however, the animation uses "the style" of the Ape-society from the movie. The book actually translates from French as Monkey Planet. The website of IMDB.com lists Return to the Planet of the Apes as being from the year 1975.
In the Planet of the Apes (1968 movie), "Dr. Zaius serves as a political leader and the "Defender of the Faith" in Ape Society".
A good reference for the TV and movie franchises can be found here: Planet of the Apes
The main events of the book are placed in a surrounding story, in which a couple out on a pleasure cruise in a spaceship find a message in a bottle floating in space. The message inside the bottle is the log of a man, Ulysse Mérou, who believes that he may be the last human left alive in all the universe, but has written down his story in hopes that someone else, somewhere, will find it.
The message's writer, our protagonist, begins by explaining that he was friends with Professor Antelle, a genius scientist on Earth, who invented a sophisticated spaceship which could travel at nearly the speed of light. He and the professor fly off in this ship to explore outer space. They travel to the nearest star system which the professor theorized might be capable of life, a red sun which would take them several centuries to reach. Due to time dilation, however, the trip only seems a few years long to him and the professor.
They arrive at the distant solar system and find that it contains an Earth-like planet. Due to its resemblance, they call it Soror. They land on the planet and discover that they can breathe the air, drink the water, and eat the local vegetation. They soon encounter other human beings on the planet, although these others act as primitive as chimpanzees and destroy the professor and the protagonists' clothing. The protagonist and the professor live with the primitive humans for a few days, hoping to civilize them and learn their language.
At the end of this time, they are startled to see a hunting party in the forest, consisting of gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees using guns and machines, and wearing human clothing identical to that of 20th century earth, with the exception that they wear gloves instead of shoes on their prehensile feet. The hunting party shoots several of the humans for sport, including the professor, and capture others, including the protagonist.
Ulysse is taken off to the apes' city, which looks exactly the same as a human city from 20th century Earth, with the exception that some smaller furniture exists for the use of the chimpanzees. While most of the humans captured by the hunting party are sold for manual labor, the protagonist winds up in a research facility doing experiments on human intelligence. The apes perform experiments on the humans similar to Pavlov's conditioning experiments on dogs, and the protagonist proves his intelligence by failing to be conditioned.
He is taken in by one of the researchers, Zira, a female chimpanzee, who begins to teach him the apes' language. He learns from her all about the ape planet. Eventually, he is freed from his cage, meets Zira's fiancé, Cornélius, a respected young scientist. With his help, he goes to make a speech in front of the ape President and several representatives, and is given specially tailored clothing. He tours the city and learns about the apes' civilization and history. The apes have a very ancient society, but their origins are lost in time. Their technology and culture have progressed slowly through the centuries. The society is divided up between the violent gorillas, mystical orangutans, and practical chimpanzees.
Although the protagonists' chimpanzee patron is assured of his sentience, the society's leading orangutan scientists believe that he is faking his understanding of language, because their philosophy will not allow for the possibility of sentient human beings.
The protagonist falls in love with a primitive human female, Nova, whom he met in the forest at the beginning of his visit to the planet. He impregnates her. This proves that he is the same species as the primitive humans, which lowers his standing in the eyes of many of the apes. However, their derision turns to fear with a discovery in a distant archaealogical dig and analysis of memory in some human brains. Evidence is uncovered which fills in the missing history of the apes. In the distant past, the planet was ruled by human beings, who built a technological society, and enslaved apes to perform their manual labor. Over time the humans became more and more dependent upon the apes, until eventually they were so lazy and degenerate that they were overthrown by their ape servants and fell into the primitive state in which our protagonist found them.
While some of the apes reject this evidence, others take it as a sign that the humans are a threat and must be exterminated. In particular is an old orangutan scientist, Dr. Zaius. The protagonist gets wind of this, and escapes from the planet with his wife and newly-born son, returning back to the Earth in the professor's spaceship.
Again, the trip takes several centuries, but only a relative time of a few years to the protagonist. The protagonist lands on earth, millenia after he had originally left it, and lands outside a human-looking city. However, once outside of the ship, he discovers that Earth is now ruled by sentient apes just like the planet from which he had just fled (this is where his story on paper ends). He immediately blasts his ship off into space once more, writes his story, places it in a bottle, and launches it into space for someone to find.
The book concludes by returning to the couple who had found the bottle, who are revealed to be talking apes themselves. They scoff at the unlikelihood of humans having been advanced enough to build spaceships, and conclude that the story must be someone's idea of a joke.
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