If the $73 million haul that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes pulled in over its opening weekend is any indication, there’s still a healthy public appetite for watching an Earth overrun by ape-kind. But what would an actual Planet of the Apes look like? And how could non-Charlton Heston humans even hope to fight back? For the answers, we turned to animal expert Jeff Musial, who has brought his expertise and menagerie of critters to such programs as Today and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. One note: Like all card-carrying animal lovers, Musial wants to make it clear that he’s firmly against hurting or killing any and all of our two-, four-, or eight-legged friends. But in the event that mankind really was facing extinction thanks to any of the following creatures, he’s willing to offer some tactical advice:
Film: Planet of the Apes Series (1968-2014)
What Happens in the Movie(s): Apes with heightened intelligence challenge mankind’s hold on the planet, eventually supplanting humans as Earth’s dominant species.
What Would Actually Happen: "It depends on what apes we’re talking about. Chimps, for example, are as strong as six men—they’re very powerful and very smart. Chimps like to remove faces, fingers, and male genitalia, so they can definitely put a hurting on you. I’ve seen one chimp that was under a year old bounce a guy’s head off the ground like a basketball! So full-grown chimps capable of using weapons and machinery? That would be a scary thing. And the movies actually make chimps seem more laid back than they actually are; real chimps are nowhere near as calm as they are in the Planet of the Apes films.”
Our Best Defense: "First and foremost, don’t let them out of their cages! But the Planet of the Apes is funny in that they show apes teaming up [to take over the world], and a lot of apes would not team up together; chimps and gorillas wouldn’t get along, and orangutans wouldn’t either. Instead of the Planet of the Apes, it would be the Planet of the Chimps, the Planet of the Gorillas, and the Planet of the Orangutans. So I’d recommend pitting ‘em against each other and then build an underground shelter to live in, with a backup stash of hand grenades for combat.”
Film: The Birds (1963)
What Happens in the Movie: For reasons that are (deliberately) never explained, the world’s bird population decides it’s time to hunt and peck mankind…to death!
What Would Actually Happen: "Unlike apes, birds really would team up, and that would be scary because there are a lot of different birds with a lot of different features. You have birds of prey with those sharp claws, talons, and beaks; you’ve got birds that can get inside little crevices; and you’ve got birds with superior fishing skills. Even a robin can make a grown man cry. My dad is a 6’8”, 260-pound ex-U.S. Air Force guy, and he had a little robin weighing half a pound dive-bombing him and smashing into the back of his head, making him run for cover. And that’s just a robin! Imagine what a larger bird, like the wrinkle hornbill, could do. Death from the sky, for sure.”
Our Best Defense: "Just stay in your house and hope they don’t figure out how to get in. Or scream, cover your head, and run into a phone booth like [Tippi Hedren] does in the movie. Of course, with cellphones now, people are screwed.”
Film: Frogs (1972)
What Happens in the Movie: Displeased with the way humans are treating nature, the frog population of a small Florida island decides to teach them a violent lesson in the importance of being green.
What Would Actually Happen: "If you catch a frog in Central Park, the worst thing they can do is urinate on you. But in Africa, there’s this frog called the Giant African Bullfrog, and they have canine teeth—so they’ll bite you and then pee on you. These frogs are the size of a small dinner plate, and they can eat large rats, so imagine if these things got bigger and bigger over time. They would probably be able to eat humans! They’re already cannibalistic and eat their own kind, and can digest just about anything. And if you crossed them with the North American Bullfrog and their leaping ability, you’d have a frog that could jump superfar distances and eat things almost as large as itself.”
Our Best Defense: "I don’t even know how you would stop them, man. Sometimes, it’s the species you least expect that turns out to be the most dangerous. With a frog, you’d think, ‘Oh, I’ll just step on it.’ But if you had thousands of these Giant African Bullfrogs, they’d be wiping out all the small animals and endangered species. And if they grew to a huge size, it would be disastrous. [Fortunately] it would take at least a hundred years for them to evolve into these monster frogs.”
Film: Jaws (1975)
What Happens in the Movie: A hungry great white shark terrorizes a small Massachusetts beach town.
What Would Actually Happen: "Sharks are misunderstood; believe it or not, a lot of times sharks don’t want to eat people, because we’re very salty and there’s not much to us that they enjoy. But if they see a surfer on a board paddling out, they’ll think it’s one of their favorite foods, which is seal. They’re starting to see more great whites in the United States now coming up from South Africa, which is scary because they’re huge. One great white alone is a powerhouse, so if you got a bunch of great whites, that would be a scary situation.”
Our Best Defense: "The good news with sharks is that they can only live in water, so you don’t have to worry about them taking over the land. Otherwise, you’ve got to take what they use at the end of Jaws—a scuba tank and a lot of bullets—and multiply that by however many sharks you’re facing. Or just drop some very large bombs.”
Film: The Swarm (1978)
What Happens in the Movie: An army of killer bees cuts a swath of destruction through the Lone Star State.
What Would Actually Happen: "Awhile back, people were afraid of killer bees coming to America from Africa, and that’s something I don’t think we could control. Bees are fast, and there’s no real way to stop them. Most bees have to be provoked to attack, but killer bees will just do it for fun. I’ve already seen some beehives that are the size of propane tanks, so if they took over, they’d probably have hives the size of a 7-Eleven. You’d need dynamite, but that would just blow them into the sky, and they’d come down looking for someone to sting."
Our Best Defense: "They say that if bees leave their stinger in you, they’ll die, but you’d have to have a lot of people getting stung [and dying] to kill off a killer-bee population. Everyone would have to start developing underwater worlds, where you breathe through straws, because going underwater is really the only way to get away from these things."
Film: Alligator (1980)
What Happens in the Movie: After getting flushed into Chicago’s sewer system, a baby gator feasts on the carcasses of hormone-infested lab rats and grows into an unstoppable killing machine.
What Would Actually Happen: "People think alligators and crocodiles are the same thing, but while crocs are bigger, I think gators are scarier. They can run 30 miles an hour for the length of a football field; they can swim 10-15 miles an hour; they’ve got 3,000 pounds of pressure when their jaws slam shut, with 80 teeth inside; and they’re almost bulletproof because they’ve got a tough leather hide. They’ve also got these little bumps on their noses, which for many years people thought was part of the scalation of a gator. But they’ve done studies, and they’ve found that those are sensory organs that allow them to sense when an animal is struggling in the water. So imagine you’re in the water trying to get away, and the splashing will attract it and it’ll come get you. They’re apex predators for a reason.”
Our Best Defense: "If they ever learned human language and learned to shoot, forget about it. I’ll be in my underground bunker—hopefully with Wi-Fi so I can read Yahoo News."
Film: Arachnophobia (1990)
What Happens in the Movie: A heretofore undiscovered breed of deadly spiders invades a small, sunny California town.
What Would Actually Happen: "Spiders have a lot of [dangerous] features, especially tarantulas. There are certain tarantulas that can flick the ‘hair’ on their back, which is really itchy—like itchier than insulation—if you swallow it. When I was a kid, I had a giant bird-eating tarantula, and when I cleaned out its cage one time, I got its hairs in my eyes and throat. That was an uncomfortable experience. And some tarantulas have inch-long fangs with different venoms; some are used for paralyzing, while others can be used to digest a person from the inside out, so your insides turn to mush and then they can suck you down. Female tarantulas also live longer and eat the males, so it would be a female-run society. In fact, they don’t like males as it is, so they’d probably go around and just pick off all the male humans, too.”
Our Best Defense: "Raid would have to start making a can [of insecticide] the size of a metal drum that you’d put on your back. There’s also a certain fruit [hedge apples] that, if you cut it open and put it out places, it’ll supposedly keep away certain spiders — so that could be a possibility, too. People would probably just make that fruit a staple and leave it all over the backs of their lawns and houses. The world wouldn’t smell great, but between that and a giant can of flame-throwing bug spray, it would help."
Photos: Everett Collection