Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by:William Broyles Jr, Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Clarke Duncan, Paul Giamatti
Released: August 9, 2001
Grade: B-

In terms of “blockbusters”, Planet Of The Apes is about as big as it’s going to get in 2001.  With the second largest opening in U.S. box-office history, this remake made more money in its opening 24 hours than the original did in its entire season.

This new film is more appropriately described as a retake on the book (written by Pierre Boulle) rather than a retake on the film.  We open with Captain Leo Davidson (Wahlberg) working on a space station above Earth.  The year is 2029 and the crew are investigating a space anomaly that has them all guessing.  Trained apes are being sent into the “black hole” but without the human touch, little is being learnt after contact is lost with the apes’ pods. 

Acting against orders, Leo boards a space pod of his own and tries to become a hero.  Instead, he finds himself crash landing into an unknown planet on which the apes are the leaders and the humans are the slaves.  Taking pity on Leo is an ape named Ari (Carter), the daughter of a leading senator.  Usually such respect for humans and quotes like “apes and humans are equal” would find her killed but ape leader Thade (Roth) has feelings for Ari and protects her from vocal critics.

Ari helps Leo escape from captivity after he promises to show her his ship and prove that humans were once intelligent.  Also making the journey are three other humans who Leo helped elude imprisonment.  On their tail are Thade and his army who are seriously threatened by this “human who came from the stars”.  He must be stopped or the apes’ prosperous way of life will be no longer.

Tim Burton is known for his differing direction - a quality that’s seen him much appreciated for works such as Edward Scisssorhands, Batman, Ed Wood, Mars Attacks!, and Sleepy Hollow.  I expected a very creative movie but Planet Of The Apes is the most standard film Burton has produced.  The opening half-hour is interesting as is the completely different ending in the final five minutes but the remainder of the film is a plotless “black hole” itself.

There’s a hint of a romantic threesome between Leo, Ari and Daena (one of the other human escapees) but it’s never explored.  There are also some disgraceful corny scenes that ruin many of the highlights and a good example is the young boy defying Leo and riding out on a horse in the film’s action finale.  In essence, I loved the original for the philosophical points it made regarding evolution and it is very disappointing for the same themes not to show through here.

It’s hard to pinpoint my favourite performances as most of the cast are unrecognisable.  I could gauge a few from their voices and spotted Charlton Heston’s “damn you all to hell” cameo but I didn’t even know Tim Roth was in the film (let alone a leading character) until I checked the credits.  The great part is that they really do look and act like apes which is a credit to the make-up crew, the special effects gang and those poor trainers who helped them perfect their walks, posture and grunting noises.

With all the hype and fanfare, I was expecting more from Planet Of The Apes.  I think I’m yet to find a remake that was equal to its predecessor and this is just another dose of Hollywood commercialism getting in the way of innovation.  20th Century Fox weren’t taking any chances and the decrease in plot combined with increased action has Planet Of The Apes following the trends set by Pearl Harbor, Tomb Raider, The Mummy Returns and Swordfish this summer.  The combined budget of these five films is in excess of $510m.  It’s an unbelievable waste of money and when idiots like me keep going to see films based solely on hype, the studios will keep winning.  All they’re interested in is my $13 and unfortunately they take it before I go into the cinema (when I’m willing) rather than on the way out (when I’m not).