Planet of the Apes (2001)
Dir: Tim Burton
Star: Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter
Cert / Year: 12 - PG13 / 2001
Format: Cinema

In the near future a space station orbiting Jupiter is the base for a team of scientists investigating an unknown electrical phenomenon. When one of the trained chimps that they use to pilot the scout craft is lost Capt. Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg) disobeys a direct order and pilots a scout craft in attempt to rescue it. Passing through the phenomenon his craft lands on jungle planet (no not Dagobah, but similar). Here he finds that humans are slaves and the apes are the masters. His only hope is a rescue attempt by his fellow scientists, but first he has to escape General Thade (Tim Roth). Maybe the key to his escape is the ape human sympathiser Ari (Helena Bonham Carter).

First up this is not a remake of the classic 1968 film that starred Charlton Heston. This is a good thing, as even now the original Planet of the Apes just doesn't need it (if it ain't broke don't fix it). Tim Burton has referred to it as a re-imagining. While I at first laughed at this I now think this is a fair description. No characters remain from the first film, and the story differs completely. There are some similarities for example the opening human hunt for example and the general attitude of ape to man, but other than this it is a new film.

The next key point has to be just how good are the apes? Well the Rick Baker's ape makeup is far in advance of the earlier films, and is quite honestly superb. Added to this is the new (and more ape like) way the characters both move and act. Wire work has been used to good effect (Hollywood take notice, this is the correct use of this effect) allowing the apes to leap around the screen. Some top performances from the apes actors round off the effect giving us the best screen apes to date.

In addition to the apes the film looks just great, big money has been spent on it and it shows. Fantastic sets and CGI has been carefully blended to provide the impressive ape city. The use of bold motifs and the general darkness of the palette used harks back to Tim Burton's earlier Batman films, but the mixing of the jungle theme really gives it a unique feel.

Acting wise as I have already mentioned it is the actors in the apes costumes that steal the show. A great and totally unrecognisable performance is provided by Tim Roth giving us a strong and loathsome bad guy. Helena Bonham Carter while not very ape like is effective as the intelligent and attractive voice of reason. While Paul Giamatti provides the laughs as the cowardly slave dealer Limbo. Special mention must be made of Charlton Heston's (yes Taylor from the original) cameo as General Thade's father, he provides that he still can chew up a scene better than anyone.

The humans in comparison fare badly. While I am a big fan of Mark Wahlberg here he is completely ineffectual. I'm not sure if it was the script (which I will get to in a moment), or an unsuitability for the role he just doesn't provide a hero that we can empathise with. Added to this we have Estella Warren who provides the token love interest, I'm sorry but here the word bimbo applies. I'm not sure why she is even in the film, although I suspect the Hollywood was not brave enough to have an ape love interest. In every scene she provides no match for Helena Bonham Carter's ape, if not for looks no one in there right mind would fall for her. Thank heavens for Kris Kristofferson then who at least proves that one human can act.

Ok time to talk about the script. It's bad. It dialogue is bland an ineffectual, while it tries to hard to hammer the race point home. It comes to something when the hero doesn't get one good line, hell even the real monkey in the scout ship has a better part. Unfortunately it doesn't end there, apart for the dialogue the story contains more plot holes than Waterworld. Ok so it starts well enough and the action scenes are good, but near the end things start to go badly wrong.

This culminates with the worst ending in movie history. Don't worry I'm not going to tell you what it is, but just skip the last five minutes you'll thank me later. The fact is Tim Burton claimed he filmed a number of "shock" endings, selecting which one to use at the last minute. In this case he got it very wrong. For a start the film didn't need a shock ending, just because the original did (don't even try to better one the classic endings of all times). But also the ending selected made no sense what so ever. It is so bad I have deducted a star for it (hey maybe the DVD will contain the other endings so we could see if any of them would have been better).

Planet of the Apes is a flawed, but mostly entertaining film. Why it had to be made instead of something original is a valid question, maybe it is yet another example of the creative bankruptcy of mainstream Hollywood these days. As usual it looks fantastic and effects will wow you, but at the end of the day this film does not pack the dramatic punch of the original, which was both darker and scarier and an all together a better film. Lets just hope the Tim Burton doesn't try to "re-imagine" any more classics.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Link Back Top Home