Planet of the Apes
In 2029 the space station Oberon sends out a test monkey (in a small orb) that doesn’t come back, Captain Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg) decides to go after him. After passing through a space storm, the pilot crash lands on an island inhabited by different kinds of apes. He is immediately captured and falls in with a group of brave prisoners (Kris Kristofferson, Estella Warren, Evan Dexter Parke, Luke Eberl) who, with the help of the senators daughter Ari (Helena Bonham Carter) and her faithful servant Krull (Hiroyuki Tagawa) escape and make it to a forbidden side of the planet so he can rendevous with his mother ship. They are hunted by the military leader Thade (Tim Roth) who assumes leadership of the apes after losing his father (Charlton Heston) and his faithful follower Attar (Michael Clarke Duncan) and men. Paul Giamatti plays the comic relief orangutan Limbo who trades humans for a living and ends up learning to value life.
THE GOOD: . . . Producer Richard D. Zanuck greenlighted the original 1968 “Planet of the Apes” for Fox and is back to oversee Tim Burton’s direction this time around. The story is based on Pierre Boulle’s classic science fiction and is not a sequel or remake so much as another version. The makeup is truly phenomenal and brings a lifelike feel to the characters. Wahlberg is perfectly cast as an action leader and had he been given a better script, could have pulled more out of his performance as he did in “Three Kings”. His animal magnetism relationship with Carter is the spark that keeps the story going. The manhunt scenes are intense, scary and sometimes cruel. Roth wonderfully unpredictable, hateful and cruel which adds the fear factor. Duncan is his intimidating, feared and powerful over his military gorillas that are scary and cruel. And all of these elements work to deliver the fear factor fans of the original want and expect. The story is laced with a bizarre parody on human behavior dealing with; daily family life, their looks, romantic love life, religious worship of an ape god and of course the politically correct philosophy on human rights. The funniest scenes are the subtle spoofs on monkey/human humor (like when Wahlberg swims across a lake with Ari – a monkey – literally on his back) but unfortunately there were too many of those and not enough character depth to make you care about any of the struggling survivors. This is purely a sci-fi lovers popcorn movie that fans of the original will appreciate. With today’s special effects and Burton’s reputation for macabre, bizarre movies, this wasn’t as intense and scary a movie as I was expecting. But given that the story certainly entertains and is filled with plenty of hunt-and-run scenes, it will still please the summer audiences looking for just that. Had this movie had a better ending, I would have liked it more. This version is simply not enough to intrigue or capture a new generation of “ape” fans and it’s definitely not worth a sequel. Better to leave this one, where it leaves off. THE NOT-SO-GOOD: . . . The main disappointment Burton doesn’t deliver is proper story and character development. The apes are bold and impressive but not enough history is tapped into to make us care. And being that politics played a huge role in the first one, the senate is merely referred to and politics are discussed over dinner but nothing more intellectually stimulating than that. The sets are cheesy, small and reduce the feared world of this bizarre planet down to a little fake looking village. The basketball playing monkey children and vendor selling ape merchants made it look more like a theme park to visit rather than a scary culture on another planet. Wahlberg does the best that he can with what little script he was given but his chance to be an impressive hero and shine as a leader is wasted with a stupid ending. Kristofferson’s character (and talents) are likewise wasted, Warren never gets a chance to heat up the romance. Parental advisory: The PG-13 rating is appropriate on this one. If your older children or young teens have seen the original 1968 movie, it will make more sense and perhaps build an appreciation for what this one fails or succeeds in doing. I wouldn’t take young children to this movie because the makeup is realistic and the angry apes and gorillas can be very scary looking.