In a YouTube video titled “Dr. Zaius Was Right” (you can watch it below) writer and narrator Kevin Maher offers up his theory that villains are defined by their goals, whether it’s wanting to rule the world or simply kill, for example, Harry Potter. And while said villains are typically wrong, there are exceptions, which he attempts to prove by looking at the original Planet of the Apes films.
“Let’s start with the first one,” Maher says. “Dr. Zaius is the chief defender of the faith and the minister of science. Also, he’s got a real grudge against man. I think his bigotry comes from his religious beliefs, articulated in the Sacred Scrolls: ‘Beware the beast man, for he is the devil’s pawn. He is the harbinger of death.’ Dr. Zaius does all the things you’d expect from a classic villain: He lies, he distorts facts, he even lobotomizes his enemies. The irony is Dr. Zaius was right and the final scene proves it. In the sequel, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Dr. Zaius doubles down on his judgment of man — and a human basically proves that point by detonating an atomic bomb. Well, Dr. Zaius doesn’t even get to gloat about being right, because he dies along with every living thing on Earth.”
He next shifts to Escape from the Planet of the Apes, his focus locking onto Eric Braeden’s Dr. Otto Hasslein, scientific advisor to the President of the United States. “A trio of chimps avoid that doomsday by traveling back in time. They arrive in 1970s Los Angeles, where they become media darlings and snappy dressers. This time the bad guy is Dr. Hasslein, who’s worried about the future of man. Like Dr. Zaius, Dr. Hasslein fears this could be the end of his civilization. Now he becomes obsessed with stopping the apes. Once again, the villain called it, of course, because, based on what we’ve seen in the previous movies, apes will become the dominant species. So, technically, Dr. Hasslein is completely justified when he guns down the baby chimp … Don’t worry, the chimps did the old switcheroo; their super intelligent baby is still alive.
“And 20 years later,” Maher continues, “that baby grows up to become the hero of the fourth installment, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. And this time the villain is the governor who runs a futuristic police state. And, wouldn’t you know it, North America is populated with a new underclass, simian servants. The governor seemed paranoid. He even sounds like a modern day conspiracy theorist. Meanwhile, our hero witnesses the unfair primate conditions and secretly organizes the ape revolution, which is exact what the governor is afraid of. And the governor’s all, like, ‘I knew this would happen.’
“In these movies, the villain takes no pleasure in being right. In fact, he’s punished for it. And despite his best efforts, the future he fears happens. Anyway, that’s the winning formula for villains in Planet of the Apes movies.”