July 14, 2017
Planet of the Apes (2001).
Review #969: Planet of the Apes.
Mark Wahlberg (Captain Leo Davidson), Tim Roth (General Thade), Helena Bonham Carter (Ari), Michael Clarke Duncan (Attar), Paul Giamatti (Limbo), Estella Warren (Daena), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (General Krull), David Warner (Senator Sandar), Kris Kristofferson (Karubi), and Erick Avari (Tival) Directed by Tim Burton (#040 - Batman, #107 - Beetlejuice, #132 - Alice in Wonderland, #196 - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, #262 - Corpse Bride, and #316 - Batman Returns)
On the cusp of a new film from the Planet of the Apes franchise (of which I've covered three of them: #347 - Planet of the Apes (1968), #615 - Rise of the Planet of the Apes, #662 - Beneath the Planet of the Apes) , I figured that it made sense to cover the 2001 film of the same name that was a remake and an attempt to start the franchise up again; I remember my dad watching this on DVD one quite a bit when I was growing up, and the only part I remember vividly was the ending, so perhaps that colors my thoughts on the movie (although it is the probably the only part of the film anyone remembers). Not only does it try to be based of the 1968 film, it also is based off the novel La Planète des Singes (known in English as Planet of the Apes) by Pierre Boulle. So how does this "reimaging" do?
How is it a movie with a good deal of production value like this manage to feel so shallow? What is it about this movie that springs an energy of mild but not quite there sense of entertainment? How is this not as good as the original? Unlike the ending, these are questions that the movie can provide answers for. The easiest way to say why the movie isn't particularly exciting is the fact that the story and some of the acting seem hollowed out and not as appealing as in the original 1968 film. Wahlberg doesn't do a terrible performance, but he also never really springs much enthusiasm as a lead hero; even a scene where he laments the loss of a crew looking for him doesn't have much emotion to it. It's not that he is inherently unlikable, it's just that he also isn't inherently one to really root for. Not to compare it with the original too much, but Heston's character was someone the audience could go for and want to see succeed, and he actually viewed the environment he landed in with a better sense of shock, as opposed to Wahlberg's space jockey attitude. Technically he has two love interests in the film, though neither have particularly good chemistry with him and it predictably goes nowhere. Roth steals the show with his militaristic, scenery chewing performance that gives the film a bit of life, even if his fate is somewhat of a letdown. Bonham Carter is fairly decent, but she doesn't really give too much depth or life to the character that one probably would've wanted from the role. Clarke Duncan and Hiroyuki Tagawa are fairly decent standouts as well; Warren doesn't really have too much expression nor impact, and Giamatti does fine in a smarmy role that probably had more screen-time than it probably should've had. Charlton Heston has an uncredited cameo appearance, having a somewhat pivotal role that is interesting in the one scene he appears in. The prosthetic makeup by Rick Baker is commendable and quite an upgrade from the original, with this likely being the only shining achievement in the movie. The plot is a bit muddled, and with no real character to go for and care about, there isn't much to want to watch happen. It's watchable as an action flick, but not so much as a science fiction movie. Burton does direct the movie fine enough, with the movie looking pretty decent, but the way that the movie operates with its characters sinks its hopes.
And of course there's the ending. To some, the ending could be viewed as a reasonable way to end the movie and leave the possibility of doing a sequel (as Burton has stated), or it could be viewed as one that doesn't make much sense. It's interesting, considering the ending falls in line with the novel that it is based off of. For me, it was weird watching the movie in full and then getting to the ending and finding myself giggling at it. Who knows how Thade beat Leo to Earth? Who can care to speculate about what the ending is supposed to mean? After all, this is a movie that never really kicks into full gear, with the ending that is like the movie: mild, without much substance. It's not awful, but it also doesn't feel entirely necessary either.
Overall, I give it 6 out of 10 stars.