Underground Film Journal

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Movie Review: Planet of the Apes

On Sept. 11, 2001, at about 8:45 a.m. I was happily sitting down in front of my computer at my job getting ready for work. I wasn’t happy to be working, but I had just come from the polls. Sept. 11, a Tuesday, was the New York State primary and I had excitedly voted for the Green candidate I wanted to run for mayor of NYC. Ever since I became a Green, I’ve been very enthusiastic about voting. I love to vote. Wish I could do it every week.

But, after voting this time, I was extremely early than I normally am at work so I was the first person in at my office. The building I work in is located in SoHo in Manhattan, which is just below Greenwich Village and a couple blocks north of the financial district. As I sat my desk, which isn’t really a desk but a “station” along a wall, at about 9 a.m. my phone rang. It was one of my main work contacts from upstate New York. It’s rare when Megan calls me, as we conduct business mostly via email, but it’s not totally uncommon that she would give me a buzz.

Megan said that two planes had flown into the World Trade Center and that she and several of her co-workers were watching the tragedy unfold on the news. I had no indication that anything had happened. There was no loud boom. The building didn’t shake. I didn’t hear an extraordinary amount of sirens.

But I have my own TV at work, so I promptly switched it on. I can only get broadcast channels, not cable, but regardless I couldn’t get any of those broadcast channels to come in.

As I hung up with Meghan, my co-worker Steve came in and told me about the accident. On another TV, we were able to get in the local CBS channel somehow and we watched fire and smoke pour out of the twin towers.

But, fuck that. Since I was less than a mile from the WTC, so I ran downstairs and over to West Broadway to get a good look. When I saw the destruction, of course the first thing I thought was, “It looks like a friggin’ movie.” There was no other way for me to comprehend seeing something so devastating. And I guess the planes had hit the southern sides of the buildings, so all I was really seeing was just a few floors blown out with smoke pouring out of the holes and a few flames. I thought that was bad enough. Back at the office, I later watched both buildings totally collapse, falling in on themselves as if they had been intentionally imploded.

It wasn’t until then that I remembered that my friend John works in the towers. Most cell phones in the city had been rendered useless so my friend was unreachable that way. When I called him at home, his answering machine beeped endlessly until I could leave a message, indicating that he had already received dozens of frantic phone calls.

I didn’t stay at work much longer. After the second building collapsed and all of southern Manhattan was engulfed in smoke and debris, I didn’t feel like hanging around. SoHo was spared any of the devastation. The wind blew all the bad shit southwest and out over lower Brooklyn.

The subways had been shut down so I had no way to get home to Greenpoint in Brooklyn. Steve gave me his phone number and address just in case I got stuck in Manhattan all night. Like a lot of other people, I wandered aimlessly around the Village not knowing what to do or where to go. The streets were devoid of cars and most businesses were closed up.

I then decided to take a chance that they would let people walk across the Williamsburg Bridge to Brooklyn. When I got to the bridge, the police guarding it said that they just closed it five minutes earlier due to a bomb scare. The story didn’t make much sense since I watched a full bus and a number of cars drive over the bridge, so after standing there for a few minutes the cops finally let us walk onto it.

On the other side of the bridge, dozens of Hasidic Jews greeted us with plastic cups of water. The large Hasidic community that resides in Williamsburg is generally known for their reclusiveness, but I need to thank them for this gesture. It wasn’t much, but, damn, was I glad to get that water! It was one hell of a hot walk over that bridge.

In light of the horrific tragedy that happened in Manhattan on Sept. 11, I realize this is a pretty weak story, the biggest thing happening to me being an inconvenient walk to Brooklyn. Later that night, my friend John called to say he had been late to work and had luckily gotten to the area after both plane crashes. I didn’t ask if he got caught in the implosions. He sounded well on the phone so that’s what was important. The time for details is later.

Even though, so far, my life hasn’t been directly affected by these events, despite my close physical proximity to them, I do have the feeling, as I assume many or most Americans do, that everything about our world is going to change now.

One of the oddest things about all this is even just not being able to look up and see the twin towers from my Brooklyn neighborhood. I couldn’t see them from my apartment, but they were readily visible from many streets and from sitting in McCarren Park. And I liked seeing them. Even on days when I didn’t go into Manhattan, they were a firm reminder that I live in New York. I’ve only been here a little over two years, but I’ve become a proud citizen of the greatest fucking city in the world. As Mayor Giuliani, a man whom I have mixed feelings about but generally think of as a prick, has indicated in various press conferences, this event isn’t going to stop New York.

What’s extremely difficult is having to struggle with the whole pointlessness of these attacks, which ultimately were only symbolic in nature. Yes, the twin towers were a symbol of New York, such as they were with me, but it’s true they were also a symbol of a destructive and violent capitalist system; a system that has used military force to thrust its financial agenda onto other countries, has financially supported oppressive regimes and is based on an unfair status quo of inequality at home.

However, having lived in a culture that has been raised on revenge movies, it seems extraordinarily stupid to destroy a simple symbol, especially during a time in which a conservative, military-obsessed command is in control at the White House. I just hope and pray that these violent acts don’t beget more violence.

Finally, obviously, I’m just rambling here and none of this actually has anything to do with PLANET OF THE APES. The only thing I have to say about the film is that in a real world where the horror of terrorists flying jumbo jets into the tallest buildings in New York City to pointlessly kill an untold number of innocent people, an action movie that explores the issue of slavery with about as much depth as an elementary school history textbook just plain sucks.