PLANET OF THE APES
Film Review © 2001 by Trip Reynolds
Science Fiction, Fantasy
Directed by Tim Burton; Screenplay by William Broyles, Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal. Produced by Richard D. Zanuck.
Starring Mark Wahlberg (as astronaut Leo Davidson), Tim Roth (as the evil General Thade), Helena Bonham Carter (as Ari, champion for human rights), Michael Clarke Duncan (as Attar, the General's muscle guy), Kris Kristofferson (as Karubi, a militant human), and Estella Warren (as Daena). Also starring Paul Giamatti (as Limbo) and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (as Krull).
This big budget "re-imagining" of the 1968 original departs from both the classic science fiction film and the source novel by author Pierre Boulle. It doesn't make the film better. Mark Wahlberg stars as Leo Davidson, an astronaut of the early twenty-first century whose routine reconnaissance mission goes sour when he's lost through a wormhole. Davidson crash-lands on a planet where intelligent, talking apes are the dominant species and humans exist as conquered slaves. A chimpanzee activist named Ari (Helena Bonham Carter) who's sympathetic to humans, and a beautiful human rebel, Daena (Estella Warren), befriend Davidson who soon becomes the most prominent figure in the human resistance movement. The villain, General Thade, wants to crush Davidson immediately. General Thade is deftly portrayed (as usual) by Tim Roth in easily the best acting of the movie.
In a very typical and clichéd screenplay Davidson always escapes the General's clutches. Ditto to the General's trusted adjutant, Attar (Michael Clarke Duncan), who also exudes great desire to crush the burgeoning human uprising. Film falls apart in many sequences including sets - that look like sets - and art direction. Most notably, humans in this re-imagining clearly appear to have greater intelligence and communication skills than humans in the original film, but this re-imagining provides no revelations as to why. This re-imagining also climaxes in the Forbidden Zone but it's extraordinarily anti-climatic at this point. Who cares.
Next to Roth, the best thing about this re-imagining is the original film's star Charlton Heston in a cameo role as, ironically, the wisest of all apes! In an interesting twist, Heston recites the same dialogue from the original film - but from a different perspective.
Film is directed episodically by Tim ("Batman" and "Batman Returns") Burton.
Film has a uneven running length of 120 minutes.
Recommendation: Re-imagine this film never existed and, instead, "believe" solely in the existence of the original film. This re-imagining is strictly a cable movie!