Astronaut Leo Davidson pilots his space pod into a mysterious
dimensional warp. Emerging on the other side, his pod crash-lands
on a strange planet, where humans have become the slaves of
walking, talking apes...
this film is described by director Burton as a "re-imagining"
rather than just a remake of the 1968 classic, several notable
elements have been retained from the original movie. For example,
the simian society seen here is a low-tech one akin to its
1960s/70s counterpart, as opposed to the futuristic civilisation
depicted in the original Pierre Boulle novel. The favoured
mode of transportation is still horseback (incidentally, whereas
the origins of the apes and the humans are explained, it is
never revealed how horses came to be on the planet).
new movie also reprises some iconic lines of dialogue from
the 1968 film. In a couple of instances, the species of the
speaker has been changed - and in one case the speaker in
question is Charlton Heston himself, in a cameo appearance
as the father of the villainous chimp General Thade (Tim Roth).
Little touches such as these offer amusement to those viewers
who happen to recognise them, although each line also works
in context for those who are less familiar with the source
material. But, oh, the irony of the gun-loving Heston portraying
a character who vehemently condemns such weapons as instruments
differs significantly is the structure of the plot, which
takes a major detour from that of the original film. Unlike
Heston's astronaut, Mark Wahlberg's Davidson has no shipmates
to fall by the wayside, but is a loner from the outset. The
human slaves, including Davidson's love interest Daena (Estella
Warren), possess the power of speech, which enables them to
function as characters, in ways that were simply not possible
with the virtual Neanderthals encountered by Heston's Commander
Taylor. Unfortunately, Davidson himself is a rather bland
and unwilling hero compared to the defiant Taylor, although
I did sympathise with his reluctance to assume the role of
humanity's saviour - shades of Life of Brian there!
The gorilla Attar's (Michael Clarke Duncan) change of heart
is also rather abrupt.
is no secret that the original movie's shock "Statue of Liberty"
ending, which itself deviated from Boulle's novel, has been
replaced by a new twist. Unfortunately, that final scene is
an outrageous and unnecessary embellishment. Having said that,
it is not entirely nonsensical, and there are clues throughout
the film that offer possible explanations (see our Nit-pick
section for some theories).
values have, of course, improved considerably since the '60s
and '70s. No disrespect to the pioneering prosthetic ape masks
created by John Chambers, but Rick Baker has built upon these
foundations admirably to allow the ape actors a fuller range
of facial expressions. Baker also ensures that each mask is
unique and individual (as described in one of the behind-the-scenes
features). To add to the effectiveness of the actors' transformations,
they were also coached on how to reproduce realistic simian
movements (which is the subject of a further, though slightly
over-long, documentary feature).
the challenges posed by their roles, the primate performers
are given greater opportunities to impress than the supposed
leading man Wahlberg, who gets less of a chance to shine.
Of the apes, Tim Roth's Thade, Helena Bonham Carter's sympathetic
human-rights campaigning chimp Ari, and Paul Giamatti's comical
orang-utan Limbo are particularly impressive. Roddy McDowall's
Cornelius is sorely missed, but these guys more than make
up for his absence.
possibly the most remarkable transformation of all is that
of Tim Burton. This film possesses surprisingly few of the
off-beat qualities and none of the Gothic traits that are
usually associated with his work (Beetlejuice, Batman,
Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow, etc). Despite
the occasional quirky moment, such as the title sequence,
the organ grinder with his human "monkey", Ari writing with
her feet, and Limbo hanging upside down, this is probably
Burton's most mainstream movie to date. However, although
it fails to eclipse the greatness of the original movie, it
certainly isn't ape shit either!
the film is complemented by an awesome array of extras, spread
over two DVDs. In addition to two separate feature-length
commentaries by (a somewhat incoherent) Tim Burton and the
musician Danny Elfman, you can also view the film in "enhanced
viewing mode". This cues in additional behind-the-scenes footage
at pertinent points during the course of the movie, sometimes
as inserts in the corner of the screen, sometimes by pausing
the movie to play a full-frame featurette. I remain unconvinced
about the usefulness of this mode, however - if you just want
information, then you have to sit through sizeable chunks
of the film to get to it. On the other hand, if you just want
to enjoy the movie, you won't want the dialogue to be drowned
out whenever an on-screen insert appears.
second disc contains more than two hours of documentary footage
- and that's not counting the various trailers, extended scenes
(one of which adds a little heat to the "romance" between
Ari and Leo), and interactive features. The interactives include
multi-angle views of the production of several key sequences,
DVD-ROM features, and screen tests of the actors, make-up,
costumes and stunts.
is definitely one of those "worth buying for the extras alone"
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