Planet of the Apes (2001) (12)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner15/08/2001

4 out of 5 stars
Running time: 120 mins

Finally, a blockbuster that actually delivers – terrific make-up and effects work, great action scenes, solid just-the-right-side-of-camp performances and a plot that still has a couple of surprises up its sleeve.

The publicity for Planet of the Apes has been very careful to stress that this is a "re-imagining", not a remake. This basically translates as "Don’t expect to see Mark Wahlberg ‘doing a Heston’ with the Statue of Liberty at the end".

If the film has been stripped of the original film’s killer-ending, you may wonder what the point of remaking it is at all. Not to worry though – Burton still has a few surprises in store…

In all other respects, and despite the filmmakers’ protestations to the contrary, the plot is pretty much the same. Astronaut Leo Davidson gets sucked into a black hole while attempting to rescue his ‘space-monkey’ (a chimp trained to pilot a space-probe, though this doesn’t bear thinking about too closely).

He crash-lands on a strange planet, several thousand years into the future, and discovers a world in which humans are slaves and apes are their masters.

Swiftly captured, along with a group of other humans (including Estella Warren as Daena, looking rather too attractive to wholly convince as a slave-girl), Leo finds himself befriended by Helena Bonham Carter’s Ari, who believes in "human rights".

It isn’t long before Ari helps the humans to escape and Leo becomes the unwitting leader of the slaves in a battle against the armies of evil General Thade (Tim Roth) who wants to wipe humans out completely…

Tim Burton (Batman, Sleepy Hollow), along with the Coen Brothers, David Lynch and Terry Gilliam, has a distinct visual style that is immediately identifiable in modern cinema.

As such, though Planet of the Apes may be his least ‘Tim Burton-esque’ film, his style is still clearly visible in details such as the bright red ape-tents, the helmets and armour, and, above all, in the bizarre ape-scarecrows that appear towards the end (and feature in the trailers).

The acting is good, generally staying just the right side of camp, with the exception of Roth, who appears to be snarling for England. Wahlberg makes an appropriately solid (if not quite wooden) leading man.

Warren, despite being Wahlberg’s erstwhile love interest, appears to be there purely for the cleavage factor, and there’s excellent support work from David Warner (as Ari’s senator father), Michael Clarke Duncan (as Roth’s second-in-command) and Paul Giamatti as a cowardly slave-trader.

There’s even an amusing cameo from –yes! - Charlton Heston himself that will bring a wry smile to anyone familiar with the original.

It’s Bonham-Carter who really surprises though, throwing herself into the role physically and managing to make Ari a genuinely attractive character – she clearly desires Leo and as a result there’s a lot more chemistry between them than there is between Leo and Daena.

(Indeed, rumours abound that the studio vetoed a love scene between Leo and Ari). She’s also responsible for much of the humour in the film (there are several off-the-wall comic moments).

Finally, the make-up is wonderful (courtesy of effects-maestro Rick Baker), and the action scenes are superb.

Indeed, the effects work is so good, that you can’t even tell if they used CGI or not, and in these days of effects-driven drek like The Mummy Returns, that’s something to be thankful for.

In short then, this is well-worth seeing - Burton creates a convincing world and the story moves at a cracking pace, despite its lengthy running time.

Action, humour, romance, scantily clad slave-girls and monkeys flying spaceships – what more could you want from a blockbuster? Recommended.

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Content updated: 12/12/2017 08:03

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