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April 24, 2018

Planet of the Apes (2001) --- "Tim Burton Makes An Ape Movie, What's The Deal?"

Plot Summary
Director Tim Burton ("Batman") reinvents one of the most acclaimed and beloved works of science fiction, Pierre Boulle's classic novel "Planet of the Apes." Burton's "Planet of the Apes" begins with the famed original's premise -- a pilot finds himself in a world turned upside down after landing on a strange planet. (1)

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Hello, Movie Buffs! 
     The original Planet of the Apes came out in 1968 and it is one cinema’s greatest sci-fi classics. It’s relevant, especially for the late sixties as it raises concern for issues like race relations, animal rights, the fear of nuclear war, and the relationship between religion and science. It’s never easy to remake a classic with big shoes to fill because the stakes will be even higher. The biggest risk is that the remake will be unfavorably compared to the original. Therefore it was a brave move for director Tim Burton to try and remake such a classic film. While Tim Burton has made some pretty classic films in the past, Beetlejuice (1988), Edward Scissorhands (1990), and Sleepy Hollow (19999), when I first saw that Burton was the director for Planet of the Apes (2001) I could scarcely believe it and it’s not in a good way. Clearly, he should have stayed away from the Planet of the Apes (POTA) series entirely.

     Despite being a rehash of the original, the story flows pretty well and things seem to make sense overall. Burton’s rendition of POTA is similar to Franklin Schaffner’s ’68 version, an astronaut from Earth travels to a planet ruled by intelligent apes and where humans are a despised, exploited, and inferior species. There is an important difference between the two films. Here both the humans and apes poses the power of speech and intellect, and it is through the apes increased physical strength that enables for them to dominate over the humans. Whereas the success of Schaffner’s film lies with the intelligent ape’s dominance over the humans who lack powers of speech and live similar to how to treat apes today. The original POTA was advertised with the slogan “Somewhere in the Universe, there must be something better than man”, which the apes are better than a man in some respects. For instance, their law that “Ape shall not kill Ape is more strictly observed than even our own Bible commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.”
     In contrast, for this film, there is no line that says apes are good and humans are bad. Even Dr. Zaius, who was wicked in the original, is an honorable member of society whose only weakness is his unwillingness to accept opinions outside of his preconceived view. This film’s story is more straightforward in a fight for freedom with the apes being villains and the humans being the heroes. And although the apes can speak they are not as intelligent as the original but rather they are more animalistic and frequently move on all fours. Unfortunately, this allows for this film to suffer because the most attractive part of the original film was that the apes were intellectual, walk upright, and like humans had their own racial cliques. The flamboyant and robust Orangutans were the politicians, the brutish and tough Gorillas were the soldiers, and the lanky and nerdy Chimpanzees were the scientists.
     On another note, there were some better aspects of the film. The action was jammed packed and the music score is one of Danny Elfman’s (Corpse Bride; The Nightmare Before Christmas) better scores. The visuals were typical Burton flare and the atmosphere he creates is something to behold. The special effects makeup is more convincing than the original and allows for the actors to show a bit more emotion.
     The characters are pretty good, with the ape character being more convincing than the human characters. I am a fan of both Helena Bonham-Carter (Ocean’s 8) and Mark Wahlberg (Daddy’s Home 2) they have nothing on Kim Hunter and Charlton Heston. Both were okay in their respective roles but its clear that these were their lesser roles. Honestly, it was Tim Roth (Pulp Fiction) as the ape General Thade who was the most solid character in the film.

     Overall, Planet of the Apes (2001) is an okay remake but it is obvious why a sequel was never made, despite a shocking end. If you’re going to do a remake, especially from a classic like POTA then you have to at least get the story right and then make changes using the characters, settings, and special effects. Although the story did have a nice flow and it was easy to make sense of things as they played out. Clearly, Burton made an effort but I believe that he should stay clear of similar films in the future. It was good to see him return to his true form with his spectacular creation of Big Fish (2003).

"Never send a monkey to do a man's job."
- Captain Leo Davidson

Final Vote
Worth Seeing:  6 of 10 stars
Worth Buying: 6 of 10 stars

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Movies Similar 
Legened of Tarzan (2016)
John Carter (2012)
Jurassic Park (1993)
Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World (1997)
Jurassic Park 3 (2001)
Jurassic World (2015)    
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) 
King Kong (2005)
King Kong: Skull Island (2017)
Planet of the Apes (1968)
Planet of the Apes 2, Beneath the (1970)
Planet of the Apes 3, Escape from (1971)
Planet of the Apes 4, Conquest of the (1972)
Planet of the Apes 5, Battle for the (1973) 
Planet of the Apes 7, Rise of the  (2011)
Planet of the Apes 8, Dawn of the  (2014)
Planet of the Apes 9, War for  (2017)
Rampage (2018)

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