The plot is cast in the time-proven Hollywood adventure tradition. A space explorer from Earth (Charles Heston) crash-lands on an unknown planet where apes rank higher than men on the evolutionary ladder. He tries to convince his captors he is intelligent; there are some good action sequences; some amusing twists; some easily digestible sociological and philosophical points, and a thoroughly satisfactory surprise ending.
Heston is by now just about the only Hollywood actor capable of playing archetypal heroes — Moses, Ben-Hur, the last man alive, etc. — and there must be a reason. In stature and screen presence, he is heroic and he is noble; you’ve got to admit it. He’s right for this role, however preposterous it really may be, and he carries the film effortlessly. The actors hidden behind that ape makeup are difficult to review as people, but they’re fine as apes.
What I’m getting at, I guess, is that “Planet of the Apes” is much better than I expected it to be. It is quickly paced, completely entertaining, and its philosophical pretensions don’t get in the way.
If you only condescend to see an adventure thriller on rare occasions, condescend this time. You have nothing to lower but your brow.