Planet of the Apes
- Tim Burton
- Reviewed by
- a.k.a. Jacinda
- Review date
- Thursday, September 13, 2001
An electro-magnetic storm takes space station pilot Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg) to a distant planet where intelligent apes have enslaved mankind. The human rights activist Ari (Helena Bonham Carter) helps Davidson to escape to the Forbidden Zone. Closely followed by General Thade’s (Tim Roth) Gorilla army, Davidson becomes the leader of an uprising. A fiery battle decides about the future of the planet, followed by a shocking discovery about the origins of the apes.
Even though Tim Burton calls his movie a ‘re-imagining’ I could not help but compare it to the classic ‘68 vision. In result, the original version turns out to be more complex than Burton’s visit to the planet. Wahlberg’s character is less edgy and cynical than Heston’s Taylor. In fact, Davidson hardly has a profile of his own. Unfortunately almost every character lacks a certain kind of depth that would have raised this movie to a higher level. Even Ari stays pale due to the fact that we don’t get to know anything about her motivations. The only strong character of the movie is General Thade, a chimp full of hatred and disgust for the human race. Tim Roth’s portrayal of the ultimate villain is as impressive as powerful. Otherwise the characters lack intellect as you would find it in a Dr. Zira or a Dr. Zaius. Thus we don’t find out about the laws of ape society. There is not much left of the philosophical approach to Darwinism as experienced in the ‘68 classic.
Instead Burton’s Planet of the Apes is an action-packed sci-fi flick. If you take it for what it is, the movie is likely to give you a good time. For me, Burton’s vision works fine in its own way. The make-up effects by Rick Baker are amazing. John Chambers’ Oscar-winning work was ground-breaking in the 60ies but Baker takes the ape masks to perfection. He created 300 different chimpanzees, orang-utans and gorillas that closely resemble real apes. Each of them has distinctive traits of character. The new make-up design reaches a high degree of realism, allowing the actors to show a large variety of facial expressions. Baker's craftsmanship becomes obvious when looking into the face of the raging General Thade. Equally well designed is the mask of Michael Clarke Duncan. I only have some minor quibbles with the female looks of Helena Bonham Carter’s Ari. I am sure we will see Rick Baker at next year’s Academy Awards.
There is nothing you could criticize about the visual style, which culminates in the impressive battle scene near the end. Burton’s apes jump, shriek and run on all fours. The visuals of this movie are not typically Burton – still you can sense his handwriting. This planet of the apes is a darkly imagined place. Much has been said about the ending which lacks the surprise effect the original plot twist had. Quite a few questions remain unanswered, still I don’t consider the ending to be that important for the over-all effect of the movie.
I see the ‘68 Planet of the Apes (1968) as a classic that Burton’s version can’t come close to. This is not his best feature film, but it still works well as an achievement of its own. Even though the movie lacks depth in the depiction of characters and a credible plot, the visuals and the fast-paced action sequences make up for a breath-taking wild ride. Tim Roth steals the show and makes me crave for more monkey business.
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