Planet of the Apes (2001)

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Planet of the Apes (2001)

Post  BoG on Sat Oct 11, 2014 2:44 pm

An energetic, adrenaline-charged and slightly surreal remake of the classic '68 original, still based on author Boulle's novel (back then, some preferred the term 'reimagined' - as if 'remake' is a dirty word now -  such pomposity). But we can imagine what director Burton's penchant for nightmarish landscapes and dark fairy tales would look like if imposed on the well-known Planet of the Apes storyline. With such preconceptions, it's not at all a surprise what this film ended up becoming - in fact, it's fairly predictable, perhaps its biggest weakness. It's no surprise that many of those crowd shots of soldier apes here resemble the scary monkey-things from "The Wizard of Oz." Ironically, the first drawback for this version is its faithful adherence to the novel; the hero astronaut (Mark Wahlberg a.k.a. Marky Mark) in this one really does travel to another planet, where the inhabitants (ruling apes & underdog humans) speak perfect English. The explanation for this bizarro planet and its presumed natives in the final third is not nearly as elegant as the logical one in the classic '68 film. We're asked to go along with the fanciful concepts and not think it out very much - this is fairy tale madness, after all, dressed up as science fiction for the masses. Burton seems to be in conflict with himself here -  the eclectic stylist at odds with presenting a standard summer popcorn flic for the consumers.
Where Burton and some of his actors do succeed is in presenting most of the new ape characters. Tim Roth pretty much steals the movie from everyone as the central villain, Thade. Interestingly, this film was more accurate than the original in that it understood that chimpanzees are the most violence-prone and bad-tempered of the apes in our reality (gorillas are actually more benign). Thade, a super-chimp for lack of a better term, is possessed of power on several levels (physical, social, political) and uses it in displays of frightening ferociousness. Roth so loses himself in the role that, even as I viewed this a 2nd and 3rd time, knowing who it was under that ape make-up, I still could find no traces of him. It's a triumph of make-up FX and stellar method acting. All the actors who play apes in this picture, including Helena Bonham Carter (as a sympathetic chimp) and Michael Clarke Duncan (as a huge gorilla), succeed in dazzling the audience to such a degree that, unfortunately, all the ones playing humans, including the main lead, come off as very bland. The climactic battle between the two armies is exciting and we tense up some more as Thade's villainy appears to near an end. Then everything becomes abruptly copacetic on this weird world and the final (secondary) climax back on Earth still doesn't make sense to me, not after the 3rd time, and probably not when I see it a 4th time. No sequel - so I think Burton's just messing with us. BoG's Score: 6.5 out of 10
Apes Trivia: cameo by
Charlton Heston as the dying bedridden father of Thade; some of Heston's dialog is an homage to his famous lines as the astronaut Taylor in the original film; back in 2001, a year before the first Spider-Man film opened, this had a very impressive opening weekend of $68.5 million.
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