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Planet Of The Apes

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Review by Aaron Beierle | posted July 31, 2001 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

File this one under questionable choices that worked. Even some of the stars of the original version were skeptical about if this "update" would work or not. A project that was rumored to be originally directed by Oliver Stone or Michael Bay, the wheel finally stopped at the best choice for the film - Tim Burton. Functioning on its own terms, Burton's "Planet" does have some flaws, but certainly works well as an entertaining (but not particularly memorable) Summer entry.

The picture stars Mark Whalberg as Leo Davidson. As the picture begins, Davidson and his space crew are investigating a freak electrical storm. They send one of the monkeys that are on-board into the storm to investigate, but he's quickly gone. They're idiots, since anyone who's watched even a little bit of sci-fi knows that electical storms like this one send you to different time periods. Leo finds out the tough way when he chases after the ape and gets flung far-forward in time and crash lands on a planet. A planet, unfortunately for him, run by apes. Burton starts things rolling rather quickly, as Davidson and a stray band of humans are chased and captured by the apes within a few seconds of his landing. The main apes are quickly introduced; Ari(Helena-Bonham Carter) is a human-rights activist who believes in equality and helps the human group escape; Thades (Tim Roth) the evil general who wants the humans wiped off the planet; Limbo (Paul Giamatti), a cowardly ape who trades humans as slaves; a general played by Michael Clarke Duncan and others. The ape make-up is often astounding, allowing the actors to provide subtle facial gestures and further take-over their character.

After the escape from the ape city (which looks like something out of "Star Wars" and is filmed rather darkly, possibly to obscure the set-like look of some of the backgrounds), the humans head off to the "Forbiden Zone", which may hold the key to conquering the apes. Of course, the apes give chase across the desert landscape. One of the few noticable problems I had with the picture is during this stretch; some of it begins to feel rather long and repetitive. The original picture (s), as cheesy as they are (and I had to watch all of them back-to-back to review the DVDs), were more serious than this one - Burton's "Planet" is a Summer movie more concerned with flash and action and that's fine, as Burton pulls off these tasks quite well. There's only a few tastes of his usual dark style, though - a forest at night looks like it was a leftover set from "Sleepy Hollow".

The acting is mostly quite good, although the ape actors provide more energy. Roth does an impressive job chewing scenery in an over-the-top performance that hasn't been seen from the actor in a while. Clarke Duncan and Bonham Carter also provide emotional, dramatic performances that are very engaging. On the other hand, the humans are less interesting. Whalberg has proven his acting talent in other films such as "Perfect Storm" and "Boogie Nights", but here he simply gives a rather generic "action hero" effort. The beautiful Estella Warren plays Whalberg's love interest, but she hardly has any lines. The screenplay, by "Cast Away"'s William Broyles Jr. and Lawrence Konner & Mark Rosenthal, is generally good, although there are some lines that do come across as unintentionally humorous or stereotypical action lines.

And the ending is either going to get a cheer from the audience or a groan from those who haven't found the past two hours enjoyable. Burton takes an obvious spin to the final moments to set-up a sequel and, after a record opening, we're obviously going to receive another edition. Although this edition worked (and worked well, judging by the opening), whether or not anyone wants to see another set of "Apes" films is even more questionable than the idea of re-doing the first film.

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