We begin with basic science. Most thinking folks agree, before there was man, there was ape. But after there was man for a while, there was ape again. A whole big planet of apes, in fact.
The Planet of the Apes franchise—now on its latest film reboot, having spawned nine movies, a television series, and untold video games and comic books—is one of the most popular narratives in American film. (This weekend, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes killed it at the box office.)
The series imagines an alternative-universe in which humanity crumbles before intelligent, evolving apes. As the years pass, apes become the ruling species, and humans devolve into mute, abject creatures. Apes is a thoughtful, bizarre, science fiction horror story. What’s not to love?
But just as the Apes movies concern evolution, so does the very concept of a franchise that’s endured for fifty years. It turns out that an ape in 1963 is much different than an ape in ’74, or 2001—not to mention here and now in bonny 2014. (All I’ll say of the latest Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is: get thee to a theater.)
1963: The saga begins, when French writer Pierre Boulle published a novel called La Planète des singes:
Note the dapper dressing, and the demurely drawn faces. The apes began as friendly faces, sure — but things got gritty fast.
1968: In ’68, the box office was rocked by the bizarre intro to this science fiction, in which apes have inherited the earth. Entrez, Planet of the Apes, movie one:
A.K.A: Mullet. City.
1971: Over the next five years, four films followed suit. Into the 1970s, Charlton Heston’s astronaut George Taylor and those damn dirty apes continued to (ahem) evolve:
Note the improved ape-wardrobe, in the above still from Escape From The Planet of the Apes After man landed on the moon in 1969, our cinematic counterparts were quick to follow suit.
1974: A short-lived television series followed the zeitgeist. Though this series was set some 900 years prior to George Taylor’s first film run-in with the apes (meaning the “planet” hadn’t yet been established; humans could still coexist with their evolutionary brethren). In that time, the primate hairstyles improved:
1976: Come ’76, the apes briefly returned to pastels. The comic book industry was booming, and franchise paraphernalia was moving through the market:
2001: Now, let us fast forward some twenty odd years. In 2001, filmmaker/mad scientist Tim Burton rebooted the apes. The Millennial makeover was, overall, a creep-tastic success:
. . .though some of the nouveau primate-agonists came across as something slightly closer to Jim Henson’s gelflings than apes.
2011: Ten years later, we find ourselves with the most realistically-rendered apes the series has seen yet. Rupert Wyatt’s reboot trilogy profiles the primate world as they organize and begin to seize power over the humans. Accordingly, gone are the goofy ’70s tunics, the slick mullets, the pastel suits.
2014: The portrayals only get more REAL from here. In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, there’s not a man in a dinky plastic mask and mullet wig in site. These guys are the real deal.
(Images via The Guardian, Tumblr, Needtoconsume.net, Zakiscorner, Sky Movies, SciFi World, Insider Media)