Over the years, we’ve come to know of the Planet of the Apes franchise as one of the defining science fiction intellectual properties in the entire entertainment industry. There have been so many different adaptations, from video games, graphic novels, comic books, and of course films. However, the most prominent of these are the recent Matt Reeves films Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes, which were so good they brought new life to the series. Meanwhile, the outlier has always been Planet of the Apes (2001), a film which has always been a bit of a weird one.
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The Movie Review
Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes is a weird one, it is essentially a recreation of the original film but with a twist of the good old ‘demented’ Tim Burton’s whimsical artistry. After taking a detour in space, astronaut Leo finds himself stranded on a planet where talking apes rule over an entire species of humans. In order to overthrow the terrorizing government, he joins forces with a rebel chimpanzee and a few humans.
There’s a defining difference between Burton’s remake and the original Planet of the Apes film. The only sentient and verbal creatures on Earth in the first movie are the apes. They are a far more advanced species than the planet’s human residents, who lack speech and the ability to reason. They live almost animal-like lives. In Burton’s remake, apes and humans have similar intelligence and verbal skills; it is only the apes’ superior physical strength that allows them to rule the earth and subjugate mankind.
The moral stance taken in Burton’s movie is more overt. It is a simple tale about a struggle for freedom. The majority of the apes, particularly the oppressive, man-hating General Thade are portrayed as pure evil. The Earth’s human population, who yearn for independence from the apes’ rule, Captain Davidson, the astronaut from Earth, and a few pro-human apes such as Ari are the heroes.
Compared to the first movie, the apes are more hostile and obvious to be animals. They’re shown to commonly walk on all fours and scream fiercely when enraged or delighted. The film overall lacks the satirical strength of the original.
In Planet of the Apes (2001), the performers portraying apes appear more believable than those portraying humans. As the militaristic Thade, Tim Roth is excellent. Helena Bonham-Carter is excellent as Ari, while the human actors are just… kind of there? Contrarily to the apes, Estella Warren has little to do other than look attractive, and Mark Wahlberg is not an actor of the same level as Charlton Heston, who played the same part in the original movie. Charlton Heston actually has a cameo here as an ape, and he even gets to repeat his iconic line ‘Damn you all to hell.’
Planet of the Apes was never supposed to be this cookie-cutter. This was a straightforward science-fiction adventure film, as opposed to a perceptive and philosophical examination of complex human morality. It attempted to replicate the surprise ending device but failed, Burton’s ending is completely illogical. Tim Burton has a reputation for being a very creative director, but with “Planet of the Apes,” he made the typical Hollywood mistake of trying to recreate what had previously been done and redoing a movie that didn’t require it.
The only thing about this movie that is worth mentioning is how great it looks. The apes’ makeup is fantastic, along with the phenomenal costume design which makes them seem quite life-like. Moreover, the backdrops and sets are equally lovely, which look even better due to Tim Burton’s signature fairy tale camerawork. The soundtrack is also quite impactful at times, while also being very pleasing to the ears.
The visual beauty of the film doesn’t change the reality that Planet of the Apes (2001) is a very plain and superficial film. The film is largely littered with paper-thin characters, cringe-inducing dialogue, and a plot that is all but nonexistent. It’s the classic Hollywood problem, it’s simply not something that needed a remake like this, but rather a unique take, which we thankfully got due to none other than Matt Reeves.
- The makeup, prosthetics and costume design is fantastic
- The cinematography is also really good
- The music adds to the ambiance
- The story is really bad, lackluster in every way and much less complex
- There are no good performances to write home about, though the Apes were generally better acted
- The dialogue and script are nerve-wracking levels of bad
- It’s a remake that didn’t need to exist