Since Tim Burton arrived on the movie scene with Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands, as a film-maker he has often been described as inconsistent and his remake of Planet Of The Apes has taken some flak. Personally, I loved Batman Returns and Ed Wood but was very disappointed with Batman. Despite the critical mauling, I also think Mars Attacks is a fabulous black comedy, although Sleepy Hollow was in my view (although sumptuous in appearance) relatively average by the great auteur’s high standards. So what of his “re-imagining” of Planet Of The Apes?
Seeking his chimpanzee and contrary to his superior’s orders, astronaut Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg) travels through a wormhole in space and crash lands on a planet populated by both apes and humans but where the apes rule and the enslaved humans are treated as filthy animals. Soon captured, Leo quickly comes to the attention of the evil General Thade (an excellent Tim Roth), who instantly recognizes Leo as a threat to ape kind and sets out to destroy him. However, Leo, accompanied by two fellow human slaves (Kris Kristofferson and the voluptuous Estella Warren) and aided by the peace-loving primate Ari (Helena Bonham Carter) they flee the ape city, hotly pursued by General Thade and his ape army.
The special effects and make up are absolutely top-notch and no effort has been spared in attention to detail. The script is more than passable and has more than the odd nudge and a wink at both the original movie and an ironic view of our own modern society, the way that we treat animals and each other. Interestingly however, unlike the original perhaps, it is the actors behind the fur that excel in this movie. Helenah Bonham Carter (Fight Club) is once again successfully cast against type as a possible love interest and Charlton Heston gives a nice cameo performance, whilst Tim Roth revels in the opportunity of playing a ruthlessly ambitious, evil and murderous primate. Meanwhile of the humans, Mark Wahlberg (a surprising choice for this role) perhaps could have been more charismatic and Estelle Warren just has to look pretty and occasionally pout, although they all give passable performances. The film perhaps lulls in places but overall it does maintain its hold on its audience and although the ending has been the subject of much debate and negative comment, personally I liked it, didn’t think it was that ambiguous and feel it sets us up nicely for a sequel.
Remaking such a famous and much-loved movie was always likely to divide opinion. I like many adored the original (but despised the dross that was the sequels) and my expectations for this movie were very high. That is a lot of baggage for a movie to start out with but although not completely satisfied, I like most audiences (I believe) enjoyed this movie! And though it may not go down as one of Hollywood’s classics, unlike it’s predecessor, Tim Burton has for the most part succeeded in re-inventing a franchise that will entertain for many years to come. Whats more, this DVD is absolutely packed with top-notch extras, making it a very desireable DVD to own.