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Planet of the Apes

Year: 2001
Studio: Warner Bros
Director: Tim Burton
Writer: Pierre Boule
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Michael Clarke Duncan, Helena Bonham Carter, Estella Warren, Kris Kristofferson, David Warner, Charlton Heston
When I heard a few years ago that James Cameron would be remaking Planet of the Apes, I (along with countless other Apes and Cameron fans) could barely contain my excitement.

As more directors signed on and passed over, it looked like it would never happen. The news that Tim Burton took it on seemed both a blessing and a curse. Known for the gothic castles and gargoyles in everything from Betelgeuse to Batman, would Planet of the Apes end up another of his dark, stormy, haunted nights?

Look-wise, little about Burton's 'revisiting' (not 'remaking') of that world is disappointing. The ape makeup is astounding – particularly how each character can show the talents and personality of the particular human underneath (apart from Roth, who was unrecognisable). Everyone had the walk, movement, expressions and idiosyncrasies down pat.

The special effects were also as competent as any large studio science fiction film should be, the characters well drawn and portrayed.

It's hard to pin down where the faults lie, but they were there. Too little stayed faithful to the 1968 version when it felt like they should have been.

For instance, the humans talk in this incantation (led by the implausibly sexy Estella Warren), which seems to undo everything the original had to say about them being the beasts while the apes are the civilised ones.

The plot, deals with air force astronaut Leo Davidson (Wahlberg), who follows his pet chimp (trained to fly investigative missions before humans are put in danger) from the USS Oberon into a huge electromagnetic storm in space.

Hurled thousands of years into the future, he crash lands on the planet populated by intelligent apes who ride horses, maintain a society, and enslave humans they harvest from the jungles surrounding their cities.

With the help of a sympathetic human rights activist (the term is given comic new meaning) Ari (Bonham Carter), Leo escapes with a ragtag band of humans. Pursued by the forces of the army, led by the fearsome General Thade (Roth) and his enormous gorilla at arms, Attar (a terrifying Clarke Duncan), he is inspired to lead the colonies of humans drawn to him in battle against the apes. It's a pretty corny premise, but it sets up the fantastic action sequences.

Shots of the waves of ape soldiers running on all fours towards the half buried wreck of the Oberon make the film worth it alone, but there were too many things not to like for it not to be a fantastic movie.

To start with, Burton & Co knew not to try to emulate or better the twist at the end of the 1968 version, but they knew there had to be one. When it appears, all impact is lost as I still can't – after all this time – work out how it happened that General Thade is venerated in modern day Washington and the world seems populated by apes instead of humans.

Its faults were just enough to leave it teetering on the knife edge, ready to fall into turkey territory, so now that peculiar evolution you sometimes see will develop. It'll be seen and described in a worse light each time it's mentioned, and one day it will have a reputation much worse than it deserves.

Aside from the incredible performances of the various lead apes (and comic actor Giamatti, in at times annoying comic relief), Wahlberg is pretty wooden, but the beautiful Warren is to be more pitied. Both this and her other big break into show biz – Driven – were pretty reviled.

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