Requiem for the planet of the apes

Matthew Wright

The special effects for the latest Planet of the Apes movie are being made right in the city where I live – Wellington – by Weta Workshop.

A beautiful picture of Earth from 1.6 million km sunwards. NASA, public domain.

That’s very cool, but I’ve always found the concept rather silly. The original 1968 movie took the human/chimp relationship and reversed it, largely as a statement against human incarceration of animals (especially chimps)in zoos, and for lab experiments. And too right – there’s been a lot of cruelty to animals in these and other ways.

But from the scientific perspective the title was nonsensical. By formal biological classification  Earth is, already, the planet of the apes. Us. This was known in the 1960s, and it’s known now. By strict science, we are classified as one of the seven surviving species of ‘great ape’. The others are two species of chimp…

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