The first film ‘Planet of the Apes’ from 1968 was based on a French novel by Pierre Boulle that was later remade in 2001.
There was also a TV series based on this book made, as well as comics and a video game. So it became very popular and there is a good reason for it. But beware! Spoiler alert! So if you haven’t seen it yet, watch it first and then read the rest. Otherwise it will be spoiled for you. The whole meaning of the film (and the book) is revealed at the end and that is what I will concentrate on — the final message and what we could learn from it.
There are some differences between the book and the film but the initial idea is the same. Apes are civilized and treat humans the same way we treat all animals (including monkeys) now — as worse and unable to feel emotions unintelligent lesser forms of life. Apes are behaving as humans, have they own organized civilization and hunt humans as trophies. By reversing the roles, the story makes us question our behaviors and our questionable right to feel superior. It also shows the ridiculousness of our actions and beliefs.
The apes treat humans inhumanely because, unlike them, they cannot speak and behave in a very uncivilized way. They experiment on people, just like we currently experiment on them. Here we have a chance to ask ourselves the question — what if they are just like us, can feel the pain and all other emotions, but are unable to communicate that to us? And is that really the case? When we look deep into the eyes of an animal in pain, can we really not see it or do we just choose to ignore it?
The other part of the message is about the way we treat the Earth, our home. Here, the film goes even farther then the book and suggests that we have destroyed our civilization and the apes built theirs on the ruins of what we have left behind. There are obvious proofs of that and that should be a warning for us to try to avoid that fate. The apes found the cave filled with the things invented by humans and they keep it in secret for political reasons. They are really acting not much different than some humans do right now.
The idea that we destroy our civilization and then some survivors start over again is not new. Maybe that is what we keep on doing, repeatedly? Maybe sometimes we even manage to destroy the Earth completely, and then the atomic blast of our exploding planet is the Big Bang, starting the new life from the beginning? And then humans evolve again from the apes?
What if we do not learn from our mistakes but repeat them continuously? Or are we slowly learning and will one day break that cycle?