Planet of the Apes review by Matt Fuerst
It's kind of an well known thing that the story in Planet of the Apes is an allegory of Slavery in the United States. The trick behind it is that they have taken the humans (representing the slaves in history) and made them oppressed by apes. Now when we look at the original release of Planet of the Apes, in 1968, it sort of makes sense for stories like this. I am sure boatloads of white folks went and saw Planet of the Apes in it's original 1968 theatrical release, whether or not any of them actually had a flicker of reflective thought about the meanings behind the story is up for debate. In our age of Amistad, Color Purple, Beloved, etc... do we have to rely on such loose associations to make our point?
Don't worry, the producers took care of this question for you (negating my need to write it all out, but hey, I needed an introduction!). They went ahead and pretty much erased all of this from the content of the movie.
We start out the movie with some very heavy handed foreshadowing, showing US Air Force Captain Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg) working with his partner, a highly trained and genetically talented monkey. The crew on Marky Mark's ship come across an electrical storm disturbance, and following S.O.P. they send the monkey in to squeak and look for bananas. Of course the monkeys ticket ends up being a one-way one, much to the chagrin of Captain Mark. Capt. Davidson follows in and ends up getting "sucked in" and transported forward in time and to another planet. El Capitan drops in on the planet and almost immediately greeted with some nasty Apes chasing some innocent human creatures. Eventually Captain Davidson and the other humans are captured and rounded up and taken to the ape slave trader Limbo (Paul Giamatti). Some other ape main players come into play at this point, most importantly the big hearted female-Abe-Lincoln Ari (skanky-in-Fight-Club Helena Bonham Carter) and Thade (Charleton Heston-hating Tim Roth). Around the point of capture, the amount this movies shares with the universally panned Battlefield Earth is rather shocking. Humans are rounded up and treated like slaves. Some members of the oppressors feel that the human-kind can be trained, others violently oppose this. All of it really is pointless, simple banter to fill the space between Marky Mark's ship landing and him escaping and planning a revolt against the Apes.
At about the 90 minute mark we get into the "money" of the movie, that being the big, climatic revolt against the Apes. Alas, the revolt is neither suspenseful nor is it even really well done. Resigned to the fact that I wasn't going to see the monolith or anything mindblowing, I was at least expecting something on the scale of a Spartacus-sized onslaught of Apes attacking the rebel humans, but again I was let down. An initial wave of scout apes are (not so) ingeniously dispatched by Captain Davidson, and then apparently the remaining of the attacking force decides to throw in the towel, since you really don't see all that much more of them. Thade comes in and does his big "I hate humans" thing, the Apes see the error of their ways, and apparently reside themselves to a peaceful coexistence. Big happy ending.
Planet was a big push in the box office so it's no big surprise that it gets the five star treatment on DVD. A little hint for you from a professional (**cough cough cough***) DVD reviewer, if a blockbuster movie gets released on a single, trailer-is-the-only-bonus DVD, it's only cause they are planning on releasing the [choose one] (Special Edition/Platinum Edition/All Star/Gold Treatment/Super Dooper] DVD at a later date. Back on topic, we get the double disc treatment on Planet of the Apes. Disc 1 is the movie itself, which is presented in 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen if you are lucky enough to enjoy Anamorphic presentations. The audio is presented in the only ways that really matter, Dolby DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1. It will sound good on the speakers in your TV and will sound a lot better on your Surround Setup.
The second disc has all the extra goodies. There are just a ton of featurettes, more than you likely will want to ingest. In all honestly I haven't even ingested all of them. Let's just say if you're geeked about the movie, then there will be some information on the disc that will definitely get you juices movin'. I'd also love to add that the Planet of the Apes DVD are enhanced for NUON DVD Players, so if you were ever looking for a reason to go out and be slightly financially irresponsible, this is it.
Well, the hopes were high. When it was announced that Burton was directing, we all looked forward to a new take on this old tale. The producers continued making all the right moves in the production process by selecting Danny Elfman to do the score, since Elfman and Burton tend to deliver the goods for movies. But alas, this one missed the mark. It's very easy to just say that Burton sold himself down the river, that this was his safe big money flick before he went back to another series of quirky, more personal movies. But, taking a look at Burton's resume, we see Batman, undoubtedly his highest profile project, which still held all of the Burton touches. So, what went wrong with Planet of the Apes?
Two things come immediately to my mind.
One - The story. The writers of the modern Planet decided to update the tale from the original 1968 telling. In and of itself, not a bad idea. We couldn't accept the same tale, this is a new time, and I dare say the moviegoing public has more sophisticated tastes. But alas, in the rewrite, they stripped out whatever was worthwhile in the first place, leaving an empty shell in it's stead. We are stuck with a formulaic action movie, we watch Captain Davidson crash land, and almost immediately we are waiting for the big fight that is the conclusion. The story of Man vs. Ape that comes in between, it just feels shallow.
Two - the costuming and production. This is usually a staple of Burton flicks. The story may be too quirky for your tastes, you may not like the pacing, but you will always have amazing eye candy. The examples are obvious, Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow, the original Batman.... even Pee Wee's Big Adventure. Here, I think they really went way too overboard on the CG here. Nearly every full length shot and out is laden with cheesy, hollowed shells of buildings and ships. Why is this necessary? It doesn't add a level of (reviewer about to go overboard here) realistic surrealism that Burton gives us. When I go see a Burton movie I feel like I am visiting a Flea Market on speed, but in Planet I felt like I was standing on a Hollywood blue screen. It's a big bummer.
If there is one thing worth seeing, it is the makeup. The ape effects are pretty amazing, specifically Tim Roth as Thade. It's an excellent job in terms of detail and realism. Two big thumbs up for that.
Well, in all honesty, there isn't too much worth picking this one up for, even as a renter. I love Burton too, but you are better served by popping one of your old favs into the DVD player. A big screen Hollywood movie gets a big time DVd, but the content just isn't there to back it up.
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