20th Century Fox Film via Everett Collection
The Planet of the Apes franchise has a deep lineage of interesting writers penning different chapters about our future simian overlords. With the latest installment of the franchise, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes hitting theaters this Friday, we've decided to put the spotlight on the scribes that have brought the ape-ocalypse to life throughout the years.
Rod SterlingFilm: Planet of the ApesNotable Works: The Twilight ZoneRod Sterling was the creator of the legendary sci-fi anthology TV series The Twilight Zone, whose influences continue to touch every inch of modern sci-fi storytelling. Besides The Twilight Zone, Sterling has also written a number of films, including thrillers like The Yellow Canary and Seven Days in March. He also created another anthology series, Night Gallery, which featured stories focusing on horror, supernatural, and macabre elements.
Michael WilsonFilm: Planet of the ApesNotable Works: Lawrence of Arabia, It's a Wonderful Life, The Bridge on the River KwaiBesides co-writing the first entry of the Planet of the Apes franchise, Michael Wilson wrote an astounding number of cinematic classics, including Lawrence of Arabia, It's a Wonderful Life, and The Bridge on the River Kwai. If Wilson's credits weren't interesting enough, the writer was blacklisted from the Hollywood studio system after being accused of being a communist. During this time, he wrote a number of films overseas. One of which was Salt of the Earth, a film written, produced, and directed by filmmakers blacklisted by Hollywood during the McCarthy era.
Paul DehnFilms: Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Battle for the Planet of the ApesNotable Works: Goldfinger, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Murder on the Orient ExpressPaul Dehn is the most prolific screenwriter of the franchise, penning scripts for four out of the five original films in the series. Outside of the Planet of the Apes franchise, Dehn has written several spy thrillers including the James Bond film Goldfinger and a film adaptation of John le Carre's The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. He also wrote the screenplay for Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express.
John William Corrington and Joyce Hooper CorringtonFilm: Battle for the Planet of the ApesNotable Works: The Omega Man, Boxcar Bertha, General HospitalThis married couple and screenwriting duo has lent its talents to five films over the years. Besides Battle for the Planet of the Apes, they also wrote the screenplay for Omega Man, another apocalyptic film starring Charlton Heston in the lead role, and Martin Scorsese's Boxcar Bertha. The writing team is also known for their work on soap operas, having written for long-running soap staples like General Hospital and One Life to Live.
Lawrence Konner and Mark RosenthallFilm: Planet of the Apes (2001)Notable Works: Mona Lisa Smile, The Sorcerer ApprenticeLawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthall have worked together on a diverse number of projects including Mona Lisa Smile, Star Trek VI, and The Sorcerer Apprentice. They also, funnily enough, penned the script for Mighty Joe Young, another film about primates, but one with far fewer apocalyptic overtones. Lawrence Konner has also written for the HBO series Boardwalk Empire though without his writing partner.
William Broyles Jr.Film: Planet of the Apes (2001)Notable Works: Entrapment, Apollo 13, The Polar Express, Cast AwayWilliam Broyles Jr. is a bona fide A-list Hollywood screenwriter with numerous films under his belt including Jarhead, Unfaithful, The Polar Express, and Cast Away. His script for for Apollo 13 was nominated for an Academy Award for best adapted screenplay.
Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver Film: Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Dawn of the Planet of the ApesNotable Works: Avatar 3, Jurassic WorldMarried screenwriters Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver had a handful of films under their belt, but the duo really broke out with their script for 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which revitalized the franchise and earned them a Saturn Award nomination for writing. Ever since, the pair have become a hot commodity for sci-fi blockbusters. Jaffa and Silver were hired to write the upcoming tent-pole films Jurassic World and Avatar 3.
The age-old debate over fate vs. free will has been and always will be a tough theme to crack in any medium but with the benefits of modern filmmaking technology the theory can be explored in ways that Philip K. Dick never imagined. However when one relies too heavily on spectacle to tell a story a piece of cerebral science fiction can quickly become just another action extravaganza. In this day and age there’s a fine line between the two; The Matrix walked that tightrope with style and grace while Next never found its footing in the first place. Fortunately the precious work of novelist Dick has for the most part been treated with respect by Hollywood (the aforementioned Nic Cage dud notwithstanding) but that doesn’t necessarily mean movies based on his stories are completely faithful to his vision.
Case in point: George Nolfi’s directorial debut The Adjustment Bureau an adaptation of Dick’s short story “Adjustment Team.” The film stars Matt Damon as David Norris a successful businessman and rising political candidate who after a chance encounter with the girl of his dreams (Emily Blunt) loses a crucial election. He happens to run into her on a Manhattan bus the following week before finding his office swarming with masked men who are “adjusting” everyone inside. Richardson (John Slattery) the man in charge captures Norris who unsuccessfully flees the scene after seeing behind “a curtain he wasn’t even supposed to know existed” as the enigmatic figure puts it. From that point on Norris must live with the knowledge that he (and we for that matter) is not in control of his own life. Rather the choices he makes fit perfectly into “The Plan” that’s been written by “the Chairman”.
In relation to my earlier statement I have to say that Nolfi’s picture looks stunning but his natural urban aesthetic doesn’t overpower the story. Sleek contemporary production design and elegant costumes characterize the high-concept story and the wraithlike agents who shape our destinies. Topically we’re dealing with some heavy material but Nolfi and editor Jay Rabinowitz move the action along at a brisk pace that keeps you engaged and entertained without having to try. The film is properly proportioned as a chase thriller romantic adventure and sci-fi fantasy and thankfully no component overshadows another.
Setting the film in the world of politics and big business helps make its larger-than-life revelations a bit more accessible (as do appearances from Michael Bloomberg Jon Stewart and Chuck Scarborough) while providing sub-text about the corruption involved in elections and campaigns (there are conspicuous shades of The Manchurian Candidate in the movie) but the writer-director often tries too hard for broad appeal. For a film with existential implications as severe as they are here the dialogue is at times hokey and superficial. Dick’s source material is far more abstract and Nolfi for the sake of commercial success panders to the palette of soccer moms and mallrats.
What’s worse is his unwarranted exposition of the Bureau a shadowy organization whose major allure is anonymity. Some secrets are best kept and less can be so much more when crafting a mysterious atmosphere; Nolfi reaches that level of magnetic curiosity but squanders it as he reveals the truth about the Bureau and its grand scheme. On the other hand he brushes over the technical lingo between agents Harry Mitchell (Anthony Mackie) McCrady (Anthony Ruivivar) and others without explanation perhaps hoping that the ambiguous terminology will fool you into thinking that his script is smarter than it really is.
Even though Nolfi’s allegorical conclusions are uncomfortably ham-fisted the chemistry between Damon and Blunt alone is enough to enchant you; this is one highly watchable cinematic pairing that should be revisited as soon as possible. Their innocent relationship blossoms organically and together they make it seem as natural on screen as it is for their star-crossed characters. Even if you have a hard time believing in higher powers or manipulative Orwellian forces you’ll have faith in David and Elise’s fated relationship one of the most captivating couplings I’ve seen on the big-screen in some time.