La planète des singes to Planet of the Apes: The Evolution of a Franchise
The 1960's saw a rise in the popularity of science fiction novels, television shows and movies being produced around the world. In France, Pierre Boulle, a former engineer and secret agent with the French army, published La planète des singes, a satirical novel that found nearly immediate success in the science fiction community. Less than five years after publication, the novel had been translated into English, and the first of many films in the American Planet of the Apes media franchise debuted as "loose adaptations" of Boulle's work. Today, this science fiction powerhouse continues to create popular film ...view middle of the document...
Looking further into a few key factors comparing the novel and the film series will show just how far the films have diverged from the initial creative ideas of the author as time goes on.
The first Hollywood film inspired by La planète des singes is the groundbreaking and critically acclaimed 1968 Planet of the Apes. In this version, our hero George Taylor (played by the iconic Charlton Heston) and his American crewmates wake up two millennia in the future after their spaceship crash-lands on an "unknown" planet. This crew is very different from the quintessentially French space adventurers of the novel. The protagonist is not Ulysse Mérou the journalist, but instead the handsome, strong and charismatic astronaut George Taylor. The name change of our hero and his crew to Americanized names is the start of variations for this film.
The characterization of the native humans and apes on this mystery planet is quite similar to Boulle's original version with slight differences. The names of the apes and humans remain the same, proving that Anglicizing the space crew's names was an attempt to eradicate any remaining French influence in the Hollywood blockbuster. The society of the apes is depicted as more primitive than in the books, but a quick look at the film's budget is enough of an explanation -- a less advanced society means less expensive to depict on film. This adaptation also features more action and adventure scenes; unsurprising since it is a Hollywood action film. The aggressive Dr. Zaius and his army intercept Taylor in the Forbidden Zone, threatening violence as Taylor discovers the remains of pre-simian human society. Hostage situations and near escapes add an element of action to the story, perfect for Hollywood movie magic. Here, the action doesn't detract from the main focus of the storyline, and adds logical action scenes to an adventure movie.
Where the story does noticeably conflict, however, is at the very end of the movie with the iconic scene that will go on to define the franchise. Our hero George stumbles upon the remains of the Statue of Liberty, revealing that this mystery planet is the remains of a destroyed Earth, far in the future. This deviation from the novel's original ending complicates the message and true meaning of the original work completely. To start, the symbol of human society changed from the Tour Eiffel to this American icon, diminishing any remaining influence of the country of origin, except for the fact that Lady Liberty was a gift from the French.
Even more important here though, is that some of the main themes of the novel are changed. Separating the planet Soror and Earth (even though the original protagonist Ulysse returns home to find intelligent apes in charge) is an important distinction to make. This film places direct blame on mankind for our planet's downfall, making the story more of a direct critique on society's actions as opposed to a lens through which we could potentially view...