Planet of the Apes (2001)

Planet of the Apes (2001) – Sigh… so one of the benefits of having the rather excellent Rise of the Planet of the Apes come out last year was that it would wipe the stain of this ill-conceived remake from our cultural memory. Not so much. It was on cable a little while back and my mom watched it and because I really had nothing else to do that meant I watched it. I had seen it only the once, eleven years ago. I had pretty rotten memories. This was a black stain on Tim Burton’s records. I generally like Burton but I feel like lately he’s become less of an auteur and more of a director-for-hire. A lot of his movies like Alice in Wonderland and Dark Shadows have that signature Burton look but don’t FEEL like Burton movies. Gone is the visionary behind Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood. Back then, even movies like Batman or Sleepy Hollow where he WAS a director-for-hire… they felt like TIM BURTON MOVIES. Later films of his just… don’t (except Big Fish and Sweeney Todd, which were both pretty damn good). I feel like that whole mess started with this movie. So here I am revisiting Burton’s “jump the shark” moment…

Leo Davidson (Marky Mark Wahlberg) is a pilot for the United States Air Force… which apparently operates in space in the future. Anyway he flies a space pod after a test chimpanzee into some kind of… I don’t know, wormhole? He ends up on a planet of… DAMN DIRTY APES! Here, humans are basically slaves. With the help of fellow human Daena (Estella Warren) and human-sympathizing DAMN DIRTY APE Ari (Helena Bonham Carter… of course) he escapes the custody of the DAMN DIRTY APES (yes, I am going to keep doing that this whole review). He is pursued by DAMN DIRTY APES General Thade (Tim Roth) and Col. Attar (Michael Clarke Duncan). Thade learns from his father, Zaius (CHARLTON HESTON), that there is more to the history of humans and DAMN DIRTY APES than anyone has ever been told. As Leo moves towards the forbidden zone of Calima, he gets closer and closer to the truth… the truth about this planet… of DAMN DIRTY APES!!! (I don’t care if it’s not funny anymore. I’m mostly here just to amuse myself.)

So I will start the good. Yes, there is good. The look of the film is pretty cool, as can pretty much always be expected from a Tim Burton movie. Some of the landscapes even look vaguely influenced by H.R. Giger’s design work in Alien. That’s about as highbrow as the compliments are going to get for this one. The man who can walk away from this movie with his head held high is make-up effects artist Rick Baker. His makeup, transforming human actors into DAMN DIRTY APES, is remarkable. Of all the ape actors, Paul Giamatti (as a comic relief human slaver), does the best emoting through the make-up. Watching this movie again, it isn’t unbearably awful or anything. It’s pretty much a by-the-numbers early-2000s sci fi action movie… and THAT’s the problem. 1968’s Planet of the Apes (written by Rod Serling!) was a groundbreaking and awesome movie. Throw in a visionary director like Tim Burton (who had yet to enter his period of “meh” movies) and you should have really had something great here. Maybe it just languished too long in development hell (a sequel to or remake of Planet of the Apes was in pretty much constant development since the mid-80s). Planet of the Apes never lives up to its potential. It commits the crime of being ordinary when it should have been something spectacular. At least now we have Rise of the Planet of the Apes and can put this forgettable chapter behind us…

Anyway, I really have no appropriate context for this, but just because I feel like it: DAMN DIRTY APES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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