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What's On? 15.07.17

I remember the disturbing nature of Planet of the Apes when I was young. Not so much the first one with its iconic, Statue-of-Liberty ending (1968), but subsequent ones including the creepy Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) with its scarred, surviving ancestors of humanity's nuclear victims. Then Escape (1971), imbibed with the zeitgeist of 1970s America, a wealthy society paranoid and suspicious with its own racial tensions.

The updates during these past years have been as good as one could imagine them to be, though I still find the central conflict between our species and 'theirs' a problem. The apes have been humanized (or anthropomorphized) to a degree that arguably lacks imagination, the best of them (ie Caesar) virtually a human encased in a foreign body. The older version of this fantasy, in the 1960s and 70s, presented a more threatening, alien depiction of the apes. Yet this may also be a sign that we're less suspicious now, in the mainstream anyway, of those portrayed as monsters; the monsters in these newest films have changed to something more familiar.

The new versions present the humans as the problem. Now War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) has the brilliant Woody Harrelson as the psycho human general, and the trailers suggest it is once again a case of the humans (or at least the worst of them) being responsible for the problems of the world.

The best sci-fi has subtext, of course, and I guess the modern series, with its latest episode out this weekend, is a signal of where we're at in the West. The enemy within is no longer the underclass or some part of it but those humans at the top without consideration for any sort of equilibrium. With this perspective in mind, I will go and watch War for the Planet of the Apes to see just how much the metaphor stretches. Ultimately, I'm glad the new re-tellings of the Planet of the Apes have a greater suspicion of those in power on our side than of the more obvious Other. Long may this kind of sci-fi continue to explore our failings, despite – or perhaps because of – the state of the world today.

Edinburgh Just Festival 11.08.17
What's On? 06.07.17


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