Planet of the Apes

Stars:    Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Clarke Duncan, Estella Warren
Director:    Tim Burton
Writers:   Mark Rosenthal, Lawrence Konner & William Broyles Jr. – based on the novel by Pierre Boulle

Tim Burton sure knows how to paint an impressive picture: dark and brooding, visually arresting. This new version of  Planet of the Apes has spectacular trappings from its Ape City and surroundings to the extraordinary ape makeup created by maestro Rick Baker.

The actors who go ape for their parts are fun to watch and special mention must go to lead Tim Roth as the ultra aggressive chimp, General Thade. His body language, downcast eyes along with his snapping and sneering mug are simply marvelous. Helena Bonham Carter plays the sweet and pretty ‘human rights’ activist, Ari, with energy and conviction and manages to be quite sexy despite hiding her beauty behind a chimp’s facade. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as the former general, Krull who supports Ari in her quest for justice, adds a quiet strength to his role. Finally, there’s Paul Giamatti as Limbo, the human slave trader whose demeanor and dialogue for much of the film runs like a Billy Crystal monologue. It’s all for laughs, all the time.

As much as I like Mark Wahlberg, there really isn’t that much for him to do and his part isn’t all that interesting . Wahlberg plays astronaut Captain Leo Davidson who gets time-warped to the planet where apes rule and humans are the ones locked in cages when they’re not acting as servants for the more civilized simians. He’s captured along with a bunch of other humans and from that early point on, engages in the great escape, bringing along the fetching Daena (the pretty but superfluous Estella Warren who’s wearing what looks like a spangled cavegirl’s skimpy outfit), her father Karubi played by a squinty Kris Kristofferson and her headstrong younger brother. Davidson is aided by Ari who seems to have a crush on him.

Actors and stuntmen have acquired an amazing amount of ape-behavior to give the film extra weight. Most impressive are the action sequences involving them running on all fours, mounting horses and doing amazing leaps, even flying through the air a la  The Matrix. One scene in which the ape army closes in one Davidson and his charges is a little reminiscent of the troop of flying monkeys in  The Wizard of Oz. They have the same evil look and intent.

Also features: David Warner as Senator Sandar and keep an eye out for that original ape-fighter, Charlton Heston, in an uncredited role as Thade’s father.

Lotta says:
The film looks great; the story’s involving to a point but we’re not really made to care too much about the humans, oddly. As for the ending, past, present or future … I’m not sure it made sense in any time period.

Reviewed 7/27/01