Category: Film Review

How They! and Planet of the Apes Helped Legitimize the Sci-Fi Genre

The film industry has undergone a series of transformations from the classical and post-classical eras to modernism, where films produced during these periods display different features in terms of the social issues addressed and the ways they are presented. The films under analysis, Them! (1954) and Planet of the Apes (1968), highlight the transition from the intensified and uncontrolled use of various kinds of technology, including guns and atomic radiations that cause mutation in animals, to their controlled use, which serves as a demonstration of rising intelligence in society making science fiction genre legitimized (Greene 10).

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Them! (1954) belongs to the post-classic science fiction that describes a milieu with aggressive use of technology leading to many cases of death. In addition, the film indicates the fact that atomic radiation causes mutation. Planet of the Apes (1968) belongs to the transitional period where the application of science begins to occur in an orderly manner. Such transition is reinforced by unusual discoveries. The astronauts discover new planets, and the fact that the discovered simians are intellectual, have class systems, and definite political structures, strengthens modern perception. Largely, sci-fi is a film genre that highlights the possibility or the actual use of advanced technology in society. Therefore, They! and Planet of the Apes represent different ways of technology applications in the post-classic and modern epochs making them legitimize science fiction as a film genre.

Dystopia as Sci-Fi Element

Dystopia as an element of science fiction is evident in these films at dichotomous levels. Them! is a film that occurs in a post-classical era, though it has various elements that still portray the classical myths and conventions (Benshoff 406). The film addresses such aspects as the rivalry between different creatures, a series of deaths that involve protagonists and antagonists, and a demonstration of the possibility of having a resolution for a better society. Thus, this film consists of different features that constitute science fiction. The legitimacy of any sci-fi as a film genre lies in the use of technology as proof of the possibility of advancement in society. However, the application of these technologies does not occur only in a positive manner. The situation sometimes involves a fatal case where people or monsters use the very technology to cause deaths. It is one of the issues that Them! as science fiction attempts to address. For example, the film begins with the possible murder or abduction of an FBI official and the suffering of a young girl who possibly has sustained some injuries.

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This scenario shows the use of technology as one way that can lead to injuries among people. However, the severity of the technological effects reduces with a temporal transition to modern society. At this point, Planet of the Apes, though still presenting a place rivalry as the order of the days, demonstrates that the effects of such differences prove less severe in time (Russo et al. 24). The dominant scenario in this film is the possibility of the apes ruling society while human beings appear as slaves. This situation is in itself dystopic since it presents much discomfort to the humans who live there, through the unconventional idea, that human beings are not the most intelligent creatures in the world and succumb to the apes who control and enslave them in a totalitarian manner. Therefore, these elements are identical to the features of science fiction as a film genre and, as a result, give it its legitimacy.

Technology Led Atrocities

The presence of atrocities that result from the application of technology in these films legitimizes science fiction as a film genre. In most cases, the emergence of technology often depicts a series of challenges based on the fact that people still lack the full knowledge of how to control these discoveries. Technology is something that is ever-evolving and people need to come to terms with it at various stages. The post-classical conventions still discussed the irrational use of guns. Them! typically shows that the post-classical era marked a period where human beings and animals were interacting with new technologies some of which were quite disastrous (Benshoff 406). First, the use of technology to cause mysterious deaths seems to have been the order of the day during this period. Sergeant Ben Peterson is at dismay upon encountering Sandy Descher, a young girl who can hardly speak. This situation leads to the use of military actions to ascertain and counter the forces that cause such atrocities. Second, another scientific discovery that makes Them! legitimize science fiction as a film genre is the effects of atomic radiation. It becomes apparent in the film that atomic radiation causes a mutation in animals, turning them into giants and making them attack and kill human beings. Largely, this film foresaw the emergence of atomic radiation as a scientific advancement and the possible effects it could cause on society. In the film, an unimaginable case is represented, where the mutation process that the ants undergo would make them actively cause death among humans.

The understanding of the negative effects that technologies can bring to people slowly undergoes a transition to a more modern perception where things occur more systematically. The film Planet of the Apes depicts an improved understanding of technology and its use in a more civilized manner. Even though people still encounter cases of death, they do not occur in a primitive way like in the post-classical era. However, the irony remains since this is a society where monsters have full control over humans. Additionally, the level at which human beings can detect the actions of their enemies has improved significantly. As opposed to the giant ants, the evolved apes can walk upright and demonstrate an increased level of intelligence. Besides, the film marks a modern setting where three astronauts can quickly understand the actions of the apes who control this land. Therefore, the actions that occur in these different periods, as is evident in these films, legitimize science fiction.

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Sci-fi as a film genre operates in a world where the transition is the order of the day (Johnston 25). Some of the events that often mark this change include the discovery of new technology and the effects that such technologies have on human beings. In addition, science fiction delves into the possible progress that people make following their discovery of new technologies. These films make one understand the way people applied technology in the post-classical era or possibly the forms of technology that dominated this epoch, and now compare them to the ones that remained applicable in the modern era. What is more, while some negative outcomes are presented realistically, others are developed exaggeratedly. For example, the availability of guns and the emergence of atomic radiation all proved disastrous to people throughout history. The atomic radiation caused mutation among different species. Them!, however, shows how atomic radiation drastically affected ants making them become gigantic, attack, and kill people. Next, the extensive use of guns indeed led to many deaths among people. However, the modern era shows a significant reduction in the size of the atrocities following the general idea that present-day monsters turn out to be more intelligent and organized.

Some of the typical technological advancement that makes Planet of the Apes legitimize science fiction include the use of the advanced spaceship and the ability of the astronauts to visit other planets. Although Them! depicts the post-classic era as the one that marked the origin of various technological discoveries, such elements do not appear in the film. This scenario presents a clear dichotomy of the technological levels of the compared films, which occur in temporally diverse settings. Logically, the possibility to explore different planets has remained the interest of many scientists over the past period. Thus, the film Planet of the Apes shows the possibility of the attainment of this dream in the modern era (Russo et al. 15). The fact that technology has undergone some significant transition from the post-classic time to the modern period is inevitable. The events of the film also indicate that it is still to have more advanced technological discoveries. First, the crashing of the spaceship is proof that the need to have more advanced ships that can aid the exploration of the planets proves vital. Second, the poor condition of this spaceship, as a result of a malfunction, even led to the death of one of the crew members. Third, the three astronauts survived the crash making the audience fathom the dire living conditions of the discovered planet, for instance, the infertile soil (Murray and Joseph 35). All these discoveries revolve around technology and how it advances from one point to another. Furthermore, some of the events are typical imagined situations that can hardly exist in reality. For example, human beings remain the most intelligent creatures on Earth and featuring apes as the species that can surpass them is quite dystopic.

Political Agitation

Political agitation is another element of science fiction that these two films legitimize. People have undergone an evolution from a point where they lacked organized political systems to where they emerged as nations with formal political structures. During the post-classical period, individuals did not possess a cohesive political organization and most leaders engaged in a war to define territories. One of the primary goals of the films during such a period was likely to depict a state where people live under the rule of controlled institutions while they aggressively protect their territories. The film Them! depicts a situation where society remained under the convention that survival was for the fittest. This convention depicted a stiff rivalry between the mutated giant ants who possibly attacked everyone who encroached on their territory. The investigation into the possible cause of death of the FBI officers and the speech loss of the young girl revealed the giant ants as the guilty party. Thus, one can deduce a situation that is typical of a political rivalry whose primary aim hinges on territory protection (Greene 17). Most of the ants attack people who invade their territories since they view them as possible intruders. Additionally, the rivalry does not end only with the actions that these ants display but elicit a retaliatory attack from the military. Sergeant Ben Peterson organizes his military group to find the queen ant and destroy the nests before they can cause more harm to people. This situation is a clear prediction of the political rivalry, that most science fiction films attempt to address.

The film Planet of the Apes legitimizes the science fiction of the modern period by agreeing that the evolutionary process has occurred and caused the development of political organization among people. The main protagonists, the three astronauts that survived the crash, confirm that the monsters have formed a political structure, which enables them to protect their territories and see intruders face dire consequences. This fictitious political organization depicts some naturally organized political systems where the use of guns and other scientific discoveries are under organized regulation. Largely, one cannot compare the number of casualties that occur in the film Them! to those that happen in the film Planet of the Apes. Therefore, most of these elements identify with the features of science fiction making them legitimize this film genre.


The films Them! and Planet of the Apes highlight technological conditions and various evolutions that legitimize the sci-fi genre. Dystopia, negative effects of technologies, and political agitation in these films are some of the elements that constitute a science fiction genre. These events occur in a way that depicts the transition from the post-classic era to modernity. Some of the issues that are raised during the post-classic era include atomic radiation causing mutation among animals. For instance, one of the possible effects depicted involves giant ants causing many cases of deaths and injuries among human beings. The conditions of such events include various accompanying factors. First, there is an unorganized political system, where everyone fights for his or her territory. Second, the use of military force in defense of the regions is portrayed as apparent among human beings. Third, the high-level use of guns is believed to cause deaths among people. However, this worldview undergoes a transition from the post-classic era to modernity where there are advanced levels of technology application. This period of science fiction is marked by the use of spaceships among humans to explore other planets. The astronauts can move to another planet where they encounter monsters who eventually make them slaves. The monsters appear to be evolved and highly intellectual apes, who have organized political structures. Thus, it is most evident that the theme of the compared films revolves around technology and how it progresses from the classical era to the modern period. All conditions depict various features that are identical to science fiction making them legitimize this film genre.

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