After shaking my head over spending nine hours of a perfectly good Saturday watching TV, I have a few thoughts about the Planet of the Apes marathon that just ran on AMC. Most interesting to me was that the legendary sci-fi film franchise was born at about the same time as the World Future Society. In fact, the Franklin J. Schaffner-directed original (1968) was probably being filmed when THE FUTURIST magazine was putting out its first few mimeographed pages.
Never having seen any of the Ape films before, I appreciated the opportunity to watch them in sequence. Following the original were Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), Conquest of the of the Planet of the Apes (1972), and Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973).
The franchise spawned several generations of Ape fiction that continues to grow even now: I see a Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is in "pre-production" with a scheduled release date of 2014.
It's hard not to be charmed by the wit and humanity of chimpanzee protagonists Cornelius and Zira, so they kept me committed to the marathon at least through the end of Escape. At that point, I really wanted to see how the idea of the future as multiple lanes on a highway leading to different destinations would play out.
I think the writers really got it right on that particular view of the future, but there were still too many references to destiny and what is written for my taste.
The idea of proactively changing the future was also strongly present, especially in Escape: The sinister Dr. Otto Hasslein argued for doing something about all the world's problems, naming war and pollution (always big, but particularly critical in the late 1960s Zeitgeist) as most in need of attendance.
But then his solution went after the wrong problem. He wanted to kill the smart chimps to prevent the future they represented. Nobody thought to address the issue that created the problem in the first place: a global pet pandemic. Chase scenes and warring simians had more plot potential, I suppose, than pharmaceutical R&D to create a vaccine that would save mankind's beloved puppies and kitties.
Much of science fiction serves as an allegory for the present, so the heavy-handed bomb worship in Beneath could be expected. By the time of Battle, I'd given up hope of seeing any realistic vision of a future world. (There was even a battered school bus that somehow survived a thousand years after it had been built; even the windows were still intact before the battle.)
Without putting too fine a point on it, all ends well for the planet at the end of Battle, thanks to the accuracy of Hasslein's theory of lane changing. Species (races) begin to learn to live with diversity and equality, which was the only true hope for the future all along.
Cynthia G. Wagner is editor of THE FUTURIST.
Essays and comments posted in World Future Society and THE FUTURIST magazine blog portion of this site are the intellectual property of the authors, who retain full responsibility for and rights to their content. For permission to publish, distribute copies, use excerpts, etc., please contact the author. The opinions expressed are those of the author. The World Future Society takes no stand on what the future will or should be like.
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