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  Planet of the Apes Talkin' 'bout An Evolution
Year: 2001
Director: Tim Burton
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Clarke Duncan, Paul Giamatti, Estella Warren, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, David Warner, Kris Kristofferson, Erick Avari, Luke Eberl, Evan Parke, Glenn Shadix, Freda Foh Shen, Chris Ellis, Charlton Heston
Genre: Action, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 5 votes)
Review: The year is 2029 and the officers on board space station Oberon, in orbit around Saturn, notice a vast electro-magnetic storm in the vicinity. They have trained chimpanzees, as well as other apes, to deal with space exploration and Pericles the chimp is prepared to leave the station in a small craft to investigate the anomaly. One of the officers is Captain Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg) who has grown attached to the animal and when the craft disappears from their sensors, he goes against orders to shoot off in his own craft in a rescue attempt. But soon he too is lost in the strange cloud, heading into disaster...

The second version of Pierre Boulle's novel after the 1968 science fiction favourite, this Planet of the Apes cost many times more money, but unlike its predecessor turned out to be a mere blip on the radar of pop culture: the original version was in no way eclipsed. Scripted by William Broyles Jr, Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal, this was a Tim Burton film and as usual he was more interested in the weirder aspects, here a planet where apes have evolved to rule over the weaker human race, which is where Davidson ends up, much to his surprise.

At least I think he's surprised as Wahlberg has been drained of character here, doing little more than set his jaw or react as if prompted offscreen towards this strange new world. Davidson's craft lands in a swamp, and before you can say "Cheeta! Ungawa!" he has been captured by a selection of star character actors lost under Rick Baker's brilliant makeup. Much like Charlton Heston before him, he is caged and subject of interest by a sympathetic chimp, Ari (Helena Bonham Carter), who realises that humans are not meant to be the slaves of Apes and acts as the token civil rights mouthpiece.

Few of the resonances that could have been brought out of the material have been, so any parallels to human history come across as cliché, as do the attempts at humour. It's all very well watching Bonham Carter writing by holding a pen between her toes, but Burton looks to be more enthralled by silly gags and knowing winks to the audience when, say, Ari is insulted by being called a "human-lover". The society of the Apes is sketched in, but there is no sense of a history to them despite the script's preoccupation with building up a backstory to the quirks of Darwinism that have brought the characters into existence.

This Planet of the Apes could have been enjoyable as a creationist's nightmare, and to some extent it can be appreciated on the level of a pulpier, slicker retelling of the first film. But it overbalances in favour of the Apes, with Tim Roth's General Thade dominating scenes with his viciousness and nobody to stand up to him but the wishy-washy humans who are rendered with the barest minimum of personality. There's an amusing scene where Heston appears in chimp makeup as Thade's father, emphasising that humans are not to be trusted as he declaims with his last gasp "Damn them all to Hell!", but this is still self-referential stuff. Then there's the ending, apparently an attempt to match the most famous twist in science fiction cinema that falls down as nonsensical. Yet it is a bold idea in a film that needed far more of them - this version really had nowhere novel to go with the concept. Music by Danny Elfman.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Tim Burton  (1958 - )

American director, producer and writer, frequently of Gothic flavoured fantasy who has acquired a cult following in spite of the huge mainstream success of many of his projects. He began as an animator at Disney, who allowed him to work on his own projects while animating the likes of The Fox and the Hound, which garnered the attention of Paul Reubens to direct Pee Wee's Big Adventure.

Next up was supernatural comedy Beetle Juice, leading to the massively hyped Batman and Batman Returns; in the middle was a more personal project, the melancholy Edward Scissorhands. Ed Wood was a biopic of the world's worst director, a flop with a loyal following, Mars Attacks was an alien invasion spoof that got lost in the Independence Day publicity, and Burton ended the 1990s with hit horror Sleepy Hollow.

The 2000s saw the poorly received Planet of the Apes remake, but Big Fish, a father and son tale more personal to the director fared better. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was unsatisfying, but a success, and Sweeney Todd was another collaboration with frequent leading man Johnny Depp. Burton hasn't turned his back on animation, mind you, with both The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride fast becoming cult favourites.

A reimagining of Alice in Wonderland rewarded him with a further hit, though again reaction was mixed, as it was with horror soap adaptation Dark Shadows and animated update Frankenweenie. He returned to biopic territory with Big Eyes, then next was young adult fantasy Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and one of those Disney juggernauts, the live action remake of Dumbo.

 
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