It’s time for a different vision of Planet of the Apes, as I continue my exploration of the series as I delve into the Sci-Fi Chronicles book. This time around, Tim Burton directs an all-star cast including Tim Roth, Helena Bonham-Carter, Mark Wahlberg, Kris Kristofferson, Michael Clarke Duncan, Paul Giamatti, David Warner and Estella Warren.
Unfortunately, despite looking fantastic, and featuring some fantastic make-up and prosthetics work by legendary Rick Baker, this version eschews social commentary, to simply tell an action story which comes down to humans good, apes bad.
There are some cool ideas (the temporal ones are quite nice) at work in the film (the twist ending is not one of them), like how this version of the planet was created as Captain Leo Davidson (Wahlberg), passes through a spatial rift that delivers him to a planet where apes rose to dominance over humans, and the secret of how it happened.
Featuring my favorite Danny Elfman score since 1989’s Batman, this one pulls out all the stops in this re-imagining of the classic story (but has some glaring plot holes, and problems), fantastic effects, actors, stunts, designs, but without the strong story and sly pokes at social issues that the previous films were famous for, this one doesn’t have much to offer.
The humans want their freedom, the apes are tyrannical rulers, except for the pro-human ones, and it ends up being a simple story of good versus evil, without much more to offer. In the end it is all flash and no substance, which is too bad, considering the director, the cast, and the wonderful designs.
Marooned on this strange world, Davidson encounters Ari (Bonham-Carter), the vicious General Thade (Roth) with his right hand ape, Attar (Duncan) as well as the human Daena (Warren), and is drawn into the fight between human and apes, as they struggle for dominance over one another, and control of the planet.
The film, despite how good it looks, is ultimately flawed and should have strived for a bit more in the way of character development, story, and as mentioned before, the essential part of the Apes series, social commentary.
In the end, this one settles for being a popcorn film instead of something more, and as such, is probably one of the weakest entries in the series, though of course, it will be argued that it really isn’t part of the series at all, but it’s own alternate storyline.
And perhaps that’s the best way to look at this one in relation to the overall Apes saga, a sidetrip to an alternate vision (though it’s severely lacking).
I would love to be able to come right out and say I hate this movie, but there are some great things in it, Rick Baker’s fantastic work, solid effects, and powerhouse actors, so, while it is not my favorite Apes film, it’s a nice glossy bit of filmmaking.