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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Going Ape � for a Burton, 6 Aug. 2004
This review is from: Planet Of The Apes [VHS] [2001] (VHS Tape)
The most impressive apes yet! Rick Baker's make-up effects manage to eclipse the 1968 Version (with Charlton Heston, Kim Hunter and Roddy McDowell) in this new version by Tim Burton starring Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth and Helena Bonham Carter as a chimp cutie. The eponymous apes - a whole army of them! - leap and run on all fours in an impressive style that leaves the older movie standing. The trouble is that the army of running, leaping apes could run and leap through the many holes in the plot and their swinging arms wouldn't even touch the sides!
For a start - Helena Bonham Carter plays Ari; a pretty chimpanzee - so pretty in fact that it must have been written into her contract! Yet her father appears to be an orang-utan! There seems to be little difference between the three distinct ape species who elbow and jostle for power and on occasion even flirt - across the great species divide! It is legitimate to do as Burton does and attempt an entirely original essay with a new storyline and totally different premiss but it is usually a good idea to hold firmly on to the baby when you are so energetically ladling out the bathwater! There is little tension between the different groups and Pierre Boulle's satire; so well developed in the original novel - and reasonably well preserved in the first and third films - here just does not feature. In fact, Burton pretends to be original but he carries over so many of the old film's ideas it is a questionable conceit to say the least! The uniforms of the soldier apes are practically the same as before and their riding into battle in the Forbidden Zone on a kind of Holy Mission is so obviously taken en masse from the second film in the series that it really does throw this much vaunted originality into question. The trouble is that it does not really belong. Appearing out of context as it does it begs so many questions; why do these apes - living in a relatively small, isolated population descended from a few space-laboratory specimens need a large and well equipped army? And where did the horses come from? Were they on the crashed space ship too? You really have to pay attention in the beginning of the film to understand the ending - and if you do it will come as no surprise.
The story is very simple. Man meets chimp; man loses chimp, man finds chimp again. A possible love interest between Mark Wahlberg's Leo and the improbably beautiful savage Daena - played by Estella Warren (who was obviously chosen for her close resemblance to Linda Harrison; the love interest of the original film) - is only touched on and never developed. The rival 'love' interest is provided by Ms Bonham Carter - but of course we know this is a non-starter! She is a chimp and I just never believed for one minute that even Tim Burton was going to give us a cross-species romance! The rest of the plot is basically the same as 'Oklahoma' and you can almost hear them all singing "Oh! The monkeys and the humans should be friends!" as they link arms in the final sequence and dance off into the sunset... Charlton Heston appears in a cameo role; angrily growling profanities to the end in a simian parody of his exit from the second 'Apes' film. His throwaway "God damn you all to hell!" is taken from the original series of course and it is not the only self conscious, up-the-sleeve tittering. Michael Clarke Duncan as Colonel Attar gets to bark out "Take your filthy stinking hands offa me you goddamn human!" parodying another one of Heston's lines but it has none of the power it had when Heston said it and Burton seems hopelessly lost now as he cherry picks good lines and ruins them by putting them into a weaker context. We cheered Heston when he managed after a long struggle to get the words out.
General Thade is reasonably well performed by Tim Roth but goes so over the top near the end that we wonder why he wasn't relieved of command on medical grounds! It seems incredible that such a violent society - whether ape or human - could have held itself together for long enough to get anything done! The apes' behaviour would have been overdone for Klingon's in Star Trek. "Help me my friend!" Thade purrs - insincerity oozing from every pore - then he goes on yet another rampage, firing off a stolen gun and very nearly shoots himself in the foot! It could have been a very funny moment - but Burton has us worrying so much about a real chimpanzee who Thade knocks cruelly aside with a peevish kick that we are just not in the mood for humour.
The first film finished with the striking image of a decaying Statue of Liberty sticking up out of the sand. "I'm back!" Sobs Heston and sinks to his knees. The shock ending of the new film - Calima, the forbidden place is really the old ape laboratory (yawn) - is so weak that Burton obviously felt he had to tag another one - more shocking! - on at the end. This last bit of fluff is that the astronaut returns to earth - ah! You wondered why he couldn't get the girl! - and finds the statue of Abraham Lincoln has been replaced by one of General Thade! As Leo takes in this shocking revelation he is surrounded by armed gorillas in police uniforms and made to surrender at gunpoint. Huh? Oh, I get it! The implication is that after all that, General Thade managed to escape, take over, develop space-travel and lead an army of apes to conquer human civilisation and now Earth is the Planet of the Apes! Well I started by saying that this was "the most impressive 'Apes'.... yet!"
But it's a big 'Yet'!
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