US Release Date: 07-27-2001
Directed by: Tim Burton
- Mark Wahlberg, as
- Leo Davidson
- Tim Roth, as
- General Thade
- Helena Bonham Carter, as
- Michael Clarke Duncan, as
- Colonel Attar
- Kris Kristofferson, as
- Paul Giamatti, as
- Charlton Heston as
- Thade's Father
Tim Roth and Mark Wahlberg in Planet of the Apes.
Planet of the Apes tells the story of an American astronaut in the not so distant future who ends up being thrust forward in time to land on a planet populated by intelligent apes, with humans in the subservient role. He then tries to escape so that he can return to his own time and place, and ends up being forced to lead a human uprising in the process.
I was leery about this movie for three reasons. First, I don't really care for Tim Burton. I think that visually, he is a genius, as all of his movies have a very distinctive look and are beautiful to look at. However, I've said this many times, I've never forgiven him for what he did to the Batman movies. Secondly, I utterly despise Marky Mark. How the hell he ever became a star is so beyond me as to be immeasurable. Arnold Schwarzenegger was originally slated to play his part in this film and he would have been perfect in the role. In other words, it's not a role that requires very much dialogue. And lastly, because I was and still am, a huge fan of the original Ape movies.
Now, after having seen the movie, I can say that I wasn't overly impressed with this movie, but still didn't like it very much, but for completely different reasons than I expected.
Burton's direction is actually quite good. He has created a completely different world with it's own set of rules that is consistent and beautiful throughout the film. I can't say I was ever bored while watching this movie, simply because there is so much to look at, even in the background. Upon the entrance to ape city, you really wish the camera would slow down, just so you can see everything going on around you. This is definitely a movie you would need to see twice or three times to pick up on all the details. The question is, would you want to?
Marky Mark, in the lead, didn't turn out to be so bad. From the time he lands on the planet, he is simply swallowed up by the rest of the movie and so outshined by the apes that you barely notice him. He becomes merely a figurehead for the events to spin around. He has the misfortune to be in a film where everyone else but him is a scene stealer.
As for comparisons with the original, Burton has made it just different enough to make comparisons unnecessary. The original and this version are two completely different movies. At first, I thought the term 're-imagination' was just pretentious on Burton's part, but it is an apt description. Wisely, however, he also includes several nods to the original as if in tribute. Michael Clark Duncan, as the Gorilla Warrior, snaps a reversal of one of Charlton Heston's most famous lines from the original, "Get your filthy hands off me, you damn dirty human!" And in the greatest tribute to the original, Heston himself appears as an ape, and even manages to mock his own final scene from the original in an ingenious manner.
The ape cast, who all obviously spent a lot of time preparing for their roles, are brilliant. I'll go so far that Tim Roth's performance as the evil ape General, is worthy of an Academy Award nomination. His voice, his presence, his evil essence steal every scene he is in, and he is so good, I wanted to see him triumph in the end. And don't assume that just because he is the villain of this piece, that he is automatically defeated, for like the original Planet of the Apes, this one has a twist waiting for you at the end of it.
So what didn't I like about this movie? Well, let me put it to you this way. Five minutes into the movie, I had it all figured out. I knew the secret of the apes and their origins. I also knew what the twist was going to be way before we ever got to it.
There are also many plot holes in this movie. Some of them, like any movie involving time travel are to be expected. The only time travel movie I've ever seen that didn't get it wrong, was Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys. So while it was annoying, I expected that problem. But other moments, are less easily excused. A scene near the end, for instance, shows a character's sudden conversion to the other side, for very thin reasons. I don't want to reveal too much, since it would, but all I can say is the plot holes are there. See the movie, you'll know what I mean.
Sadly, the predictability of the plot, makes tension, all but absent. There is also no build up or suspense or mystery. Basically this leaves nothing for this movie but action. All this movie has is action and the eye candy of the apes. It's got no heart or soul to it.
The original, not to keep harping on comparisons, since they really are two different movies, was a thought provoking statement on the human condition. This one is just a dressed up action movie which is better served if you don't think at all while watching it.
So while, this movie is very deserving of awards for it's makeup, costume, and set design, and possibly for Tim Roth's performance, it's best to be forgotten for everything else.
Tim Roth in Planet of the Apes.
Tim Burton is a master of atmosphere and set design, as he has demonstrated time and again in movies like Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands and Sleepy Hollow. In Planet of the Apes he maintains that reputation. He knows how to create a visual world and how to inhabit that world with visually appropriate characters. Unfortunately he has never mastered the art of character development and his plots are transparent and simple. His movies remind me of beautiful presents that when unwrapped reveal empty boxes.
Planet of the Apes is actually better than most of his movies and for the same reason that it fails to be a great one. The concept and basics of the story are classic. They are intriguing and pretty much critic proof. But this also makes it impossible to think of the film without comparing it to the original; which was a groundbreaking, socio-political blockbuster with a million dollar ending and state-of-the-art make-up. Sure the new one looks better technically, but the computer-enhanced scenes are not going to startle the jaded eye of today's moviegoer in the same way that the ape makeup did to audiences in the sixties. I realize this is a different movie from the original but if you are going to use the same title and basic plot then expect comparisons.
The acting and action are entertaining enough, so to be honest if you're too young to have experienced the Apes phenomenon the first time around this movie should do the trick. Still, as mentioned above, there are some mighty big plot holes to overlook, including the ridiculous ending, which shamelessly and unsuccessfully tries to duplicate the impact of the 1968 version's surprise ending.
It would be nice to see a movie where depth of character and complexity of plot support visual sophistication.
Mark Wahlberg and Estella Warren in Planet of the Apes.
Tim Burton is an "artist." He has always paid such great attention to the look of a film. The generic pastel colored neighborhood in Edward Scissorhands or the perpetually foggy, gloomy world of Sleepy Hollow demonstrate this. However, none of his characters are ever fleshed out or are very consistent. Burton's Bruce Wayne is this haunted, introvert that throws big parties and falls in love at a drop of a hat. In Ed Wood he spends the entire movie demonstrating this directors peculiarities without ever explaining why he is so odd.
In this remake of Planet Of The Apes, Burton delivers his usual artistic look, with utter lack of characterization. He pays so much attention to some details. When Helena Bonham Carter's chimp is talking to an another simian she does so while swinging across the ceiling, as we would imagine any chimp to do. Bonham Carter plays a human rights activist without any explanation as to why.
One part that really bugged me the most is that all the humans can talk. The apes and monkeys in this movie treat human likes animals. They buy them as pets and keep them in cages. Much like we humans do to our cats and dogs. One big difference is that our pets don't talk or have intelligence. In the original Planet Of The Apes the humans were very animal like. They could not speak and were fairly dumb. If our pets could talk and think do you think we would still treat them the same way?
I do not have the big aversion to Mark Wahlberg that Scott does. (just don't get me started on George Clooney) Wahlberg is a competent actor and this role really demands little talent anyway. His character is inconsistent in that the whole things starts with him risking his career and life to save a chimp only to give him away at the end of the movie.
Now speaking of the ending of the movie; it sucked. I sat through 2 hours of film just to get to the same place the movie started. The original's ending couldn't be topped but this one wasn't even close, and the Apebraham Lincoln joke was about as stupid as the entire movie of Mars Attacks.
Patrick's example of the empty, decorative gift box perfectly describes Burton's films. They are all so hollow. I always come away from his movies thinking how stupid different parts were. Well at least he is consistent in that regard.
I give this movie 2 stars simply for the good pacing.
Photos © Copyright 20th Century Fox (2001)