Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Timeline Confusion on the Planet of the Apes
Karen: If you've followed Bronze Age Babies for any length of time, you're probably aware that Doug and I are big Planet of the Apes fans. POTA, as it is affectionately known, was a big part of our childhoods -not only the films, but the incredible amount of merchandise from them!
Karen: A new POTA film is being released on August 5, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. This movie looks like it is a new take on the Apes story, starting in present time and showing how the apes became intelligent -something that was never entirely clear in the original films.
Karen: In fact, there is much that is not clear in the original series of films, and it all has to do with the wonders of time travel. POTA is chock full of time travel and time paradoxes, a timeline so contorted that it instigates internet arguments.
Karen: If we go back to the first film (Planet of the Apes), the astronauts arrive on the planet of the apes in the Earth year 3978 (or 3955, if you believe the chronometer in the spaceship from the second film). In any case, it is far in the future. The apes are largely unaware of the truth of their history, with the exception of Dr. Zaius and perhaps other high-placed orangutans. Their religious stories contend that the ape is made in God's image and man has always been a plague upon ape-kind. Of course, at the end of the film we learn that the planet is actually Earth; through what appears to have been a devastating nuclear war, apes and men have somehow exchanged places.
Karen: The next film, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, ends with the entire Earth destroyed by a doomsday weapon. That should be it, right? Wrong. You can't keep a successful franchise down. In the next film, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, it turns out that three chimps, Cornelius, Zira, and Dr. Milo, escaped the destruction of their world using Taylor's crashed spaceship. Now, suspending our disbelief that apes with a technological level equivalent to about the early 1800s could somehow repair a spacecraft and launch it, these three apes managed to time travel back to Earth circa 1973. This is where the fun begins.
Karen: By traveling back, the apes create a paradox. In this film and the next (Conquest of the Planet of the Apes) we see that it is Zira and Cornelius' son, Caesar, who instigates the ape rebellion. So the apes from the future in effect created their own reality!
Karen: This paradox is bad enough, but it also seems to contradict statements from Cornelius, who said that the apes' sacred scrolls say that an ape named Aldo started the rebellion by saying, "No." Of course, even that statement seems to contradict the idea in the first film, that apes had always believed themselves to be superior to man.
Karen: I suppose one could argue that maybe the apes ascendancy was inevitable, that Caesar's arrival just sped things up. Perhaps. But that's not the vibe I get from these films.
Karen: So we may now have tow different timelines in place. They both end up with the same result -apes in charge -but in different ways.
Karen: If you really want to make your head hurt, throw the Apes TV series into the mix. The two astronauts land in 3085, at a time when humans can talk, but apes are clearly in charge. However, they also encounter a Dr. Zaius! Clearly this can't be the same ape- can it? And try to figure out how to fit in the timelines of the cartoon and the comics...oh boy.
Karen: This is such a subject of controversy among the POTA fandom that whole websites and books have sprung up to sort it out. Perhaps the simplest explanation is this: they're just movies made by people who never had any idea that the films would be thrown under a microscope by anyone. Enjoy the time paradox. Argue it. But don't ever think there's a "real" answer to it. Just relax and wave hi to little Baby Milo.