Planet Of The Apes (2001)

Rating: ***
Release Date: 7/27/01
Director: Tim Burton
Music: Danny Elfman
Make-up: Rick Baker
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Helena Bonham Carter, Tim Roth, Estella Warren, Kris Kristofferson, David Warner, Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa, cameo by Charleton Heston

Not having ever seen the original "Planet Of The Apes" (1968), I have nothing to compare this to. However, I've known the punchline for years, so I was very curious to see how Tim Burton would get around that. Astronaut Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg) and his trained chimpanzee get caught in a violent electro-magnetic storm that hurls them through time and space. Leo ends up crashing on an Earth-like planet (that is clearly NOT Earth) where apes rule over subjugated humans. Being cocky and intelligent, he defies the apes and catches the attention of Ari (Helena Bonham Carter), a kind and intelligent ape who sympathizes with the human cause (i.e., she's a bleeding heart activist). He also captures the heart of the radiantly beautiful and scantily clad Estella Warren, whose innocence and stunning good looks seem laughably out of place throughout the entire film. Ari helps Leo and his friends escape, only to become a fugitive herself. The film builds to a violent crescendo as the humans and apes air their differences in bloody hand-to-hand combat.

The make-up and effects are outstanding, and the film is a visual feast. The only problem with the apes is their occasional slurred speech from trying to speak through their prosthetics. Danny Elfman provides a dark and moody tribal sounding score that fits the look and feel of the film perfectly. The acting is fair to good, with the majority of the dramatic delivery resting in the hands/paws of Helena Bonham Carter and General Thade (Tim Roth). Ms. Carter does a great job, and Tim Roth is brilliant. His violent and psychotic portrayal of General Thade is downright scary and terrifying to behold. And did I mention that Estella Warren is a babe? Wowzers... In an amusing nod to the original, Charleton Heston shows up as an elder ape and delivers his classic climactic dialog. Funny, but slightly inappropriate. So, why doesn't the film ever seem to gel? It feels as if Burton was so obsessed with creating this fantastic world that he forgot about trying to tell a story. He does a wonderful job of creating an ape society and capturing the magic and awe of such a place, but it's ultimately hollow and devoid of any real feeling. The social and political themes so central to the original are presented bluntly, with outdated 60's sensibilities wrapped in the sterility of 80's political correctness. Tim Burton also pays homage to the original by throwing in his own special (and entirely unnecessary) twist ending, but much like the rest of the film, it fails to make a profound impact.