Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Planet of the Apes (2001)

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

PLANET OF THE APES

6/10

USA 2001
director : Tim Burton
script : William Broyles Jr, Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal (based on novel by Pierre Boulle)
producers include : Richard D Zanuck
cinematography : Philippe Rousselot
editing : Chris Lebenzon
music : Danny Elfman
lead actors : Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Paul Giamatti
120 minutes

Planet of the Apes is an entertaining movie, and youd better go see it quickly, before you read too many negative reviews from snobbier critics and get put off. Adapted by, among others, William (Cast Away) Broyles Jr, from Le Planete des Singes (Monkey Planet) by Pierre Boulle (who also wrote the book on which Bridge on the River Kwai was based), it isn’t a difficult or subtle movie; you can just sit back and enjoy it. That should place the genre closely enough, without spoiling the theme or the plot.

At best, this is a slick commercial picture, with its elements carefully engineered pretty girl (Estella Warren, who unfortunately doesn’t seem to have had acting training), comic relief, thrills, chases but when expensive Hollywood engineering works, as it rarely does any more, the results can be impressive. Burton has thought out the action in terms of the wide screen, and he uses space and distance dramatically.

Rousselots excellent colour photography helps to make the vast exteriors part of the meaning. The editing, though, is somewhat cack-handed, especially in the first hour. The makeup (there is said to be several million dollars worth) and the costuming of the actors are rather witty. And Bonham Carter, as an ape human rights activist, somehow manages to give a better performance in this makeup than she has ever given on the screen before.

nb : The above is a re-imagining of Pauline Kaels original (Feb 17, 1968) review of the original Planet of the Apes, anthologised in her collection Going Steady. It is not a rewrite. I offer some minor, more personal additions which I was unable to shoehorn into the proper review:

(1) Planet of the Apes may be Tim Burtons best movie! It may sound like a bought-and-paid-for poster tagline, but from me, this isn’t extravagant praise. Ive never gone a bundle on any of his previous work – Scissorhands, Batman, Mars Attacks, Sleepy Hollow, they’ve all got their moments, in some cases plenty of moments. But they never quite add up to the idea of the movie you have in advance. Apes, on the other hand is pretty much as youd hope and expect, and Burton doesn’t go in for his usual self-indulgences. Turns out the big-budget big-studio strait-jacket is just what he always needed after all. Towards the end, I could actually feel my pulse racing.

(2) Mark Wahlberg! If a visitor in a space capsule took off in, say, 1992, and crash landed in America

2001, surely the last person he’d expect to be the star of the biggest summer movie would be Marky bloody Mark. But what a career its been. That army picture with Danny DeVito that isnt called Stand and Deliver. Fear opposite Reese Witherspoon! Outshining Leo in Basketball Diaries, then the breakthrough with Boogie Nights. The Big Hit, never released in the UK. Three Kings, then a more commercial breakthrough with Perfect Storm, and back to the arthouses in The Yards. (Have I missed any?) And up to another level again with Apes, in the role originally slated for Arnie when James Cameron was supposed to direct. But now its the ideal vehicle for Hollywoods most cheerfully simian young star.

(3) That new twist ending! At first it seems breathtakingly audacious, apparently nodding to Will Selfs novel Great Apes. But then they try for another twist, which almost undoes whatever good stuffs gone before. But these aren’t really twists (i.e. Shyamalan-style) at all in that they don’t tell us anything new about what we’ve just been watching. And it isn’t really the ending, its more accurately a coda, as its separate from the main narrative. The climax of which, incidentally, deserves credit for featuring the most outrageously literal example of deus ex machina ever committed to celluloid.

17th August, 2001
(seen Aug-17-01, UGC Boldon)

by Neil Young