Movie Reviews: Planet of the Apes




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     20th Century Fox (2 hrs.)
     After landing on a strange planet, an Air Force pilot finds himself in a world turned upside down, where apes rule subservient humans.
     Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Michael Clarke Duncan, Helena Bonham Carter
Bottom Line:


A note to "Planet of The Apes" fans:
A beached Statue of Liberty does not appear in the closing scenes of Tim Burton’s version.

In addition, wayward astronaut Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg) who has the misfortune of crash landing on a simian ruled world, does not discover he’s been rocketed into Earth’s post apocalyptic future.

Not to give anything away, but Burton does manage to conjure up two big surprises at the end of the movie. However, not even Burton, noted for his off-beat direction of "Batman"and "Edward Scissors Hands," could top the original’s ending which 33-years-later still sends chills straight up the spine.

Burton, a progressive and ambitious director, cleverly calls his grim monkey flick a reimagining of the 1968 Sci-fi classic. But it’s really just a matter of semantics.

Reimagining? Remake? Six-to-one — half-a-dozen to another.

Because Burton goes out of his way to pay homage to "Twilight Zone" guru Rod Serling’s original screenplay. He religiously borrows from many of the original film’s signature one-liners, i.e. "Get your hands off me you damn dirty ape," and "Damn them all to hell." Charton Heston, who played the lost astronaut in the original film, even has a cameo in Burton’s flick. Ape fans should recognize Heston (donned in ape costume) by his distinctive biblical voice.

Burton’s retelling of Pierre Boulle’s classic novel is loaded with Burton-esque dark and bizarre ironies underlined by wicked satire such as apes keeping children as pets, and shopkeepers warning apes to get rid of their pets before they reach puberty, because no one wants a teenage human in the house.

The new film’s framework hinges on Davidson training genetically engineered chimpanzees to fly single-man space crafts into ion storms from a space station orbiting Earth.

Davidson is chomping at the bit to pilot a shuttle himself. Because even though the chimps are highly intelligent, they still have difficulty operating their shuttles if they have to deviate from programmed flights. He feels a manned flight is the only way to explore the phenomenon.

When Davidson’s favorite chimp is lost in a storm, against orders he goes after the ape and loses control of his ship which crash lands on a simian world.

From there you know the four-step drill:
1. Davidson is captured during a savage ape roundup of humans living in the jungle. The ape’s fascist military leader, Thade (Tim Roth) who believes humans should be wiped out because they’re a threat to apedom singles out Davidson from the others because of strange clothing and the defiance in his eyes.
2. Ari (Helena Bonham Carter), a liberal upper-class chimp and human rights activist, believes humans are intelligent and have souls. So she helps Davidson escape Ape City and flee to the Forbidden Zone which holds the secrets of the origins of apes and humans.
3. Thade and Gen. Attar (Michael Clarke Duncan), a silverback gorilla dedicated to Thade, pursue Davidson and Ari with and army of apes hoping to prevent them from discovering the secrets of apedom.
4. Big surprise ending — which by the way is way cool if you haven’t seen the original.

What Burton’s "Planet of The Apes" lacks in originality and story construction, it makes up in stunning set and costume design, highlighted by Roth, Duncan and Carter’s primate body language. The hybrid human/simian make-up can be frightening and uncanny at times. And the actors have the movements and mannerism down to ape-like perfection. Duncan’s performance fills the screen and takes up all the air in the theater.

Although Burton’s "Planet of The Apes" is haunted by the specter of the orginial, it is by far the best film of this summer’s flock of blockbusters.



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