Planet of the Apes
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Planet of the Apes (2001)

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For many years the studio executives of Hollywood have had the idea that if a move was a hit one time, remaking it would provide a hit again. There are many was that they have gone about this. There was the scene for scene remake of Psycho a few years ago that could never get out of the shadow of the original. Then there are the remakes of Jerry Lewis films by Eddie Murphy, which met with more success. Tim Burton has now entered the fray with his ‘Re-Imagining’ of the classic Sci-Fi flick, Planet of the Apes. The first thing to do is to notice that he does not call it a remake but a re-imagining. This gives him a way out of trying to reconcile the plot or characters to the original. So, forget the Charlton Heston film we all know and take this as a completely different animal. The story begins with Leo (Mark Wahlberg), an astronaut on a huge exploratory space ship. Genetically enhanced apes in lieu of humans run most of the missions. When the ship come upon a huge space storm. They send the chimp into the storm and he is lost. Leo, upset with the second-class flight status of humans goes against orders and flies off to save the chimp. Of course, Leo is drawn into the storm and his chronometer starts rapidly advancing. Leo lands in the water, losing his craft. The land is desolate and he soon finds himself in the middle of a group of humans hunted by apes. He is captured and sold to a slave trader, Limbo (Paul Giamatti). Fighting for human rights is Ari (Helena Bonham Carter), daughter of a high ranked senator, who buys Leo and a busty blond human female Daena (Estella Warren). Leo leads an escape and is followed by General Thade (Tim Roth) and his second in command Attar (Michael Clarke Duncan). Naturally, there are chases, some attempts at social commentary and the big climatic battle between species. The so called ‘surprise ending’ is a let down so don’t get your hopes up too high.

This is a difficult genre for actors, the heavy prosthetic flick. They are limited to their eyes for conveying emotions. They also had to attend ‘ape school’ to learn to move like a simian. There was also a report of heavy smoke Carter setting her face mask on fire until they prop department obtained a twenties style cigarette holder. Wahlberg is a bit out of his element here as an action hero. He has a lot of talent as shown with roles like Boogie Nights and even Perfect Storm. He seems to drift along too much. Because he was working sans the heavy makeup it was up to him to set the emotional tone. His facial expression barely changes. Carter really shined in her role as Ari. Her eyes are extremely expressive. Her body language perfectly suited to the chimp mannerisms required for the role. She projects more humanity than any of the ‘human’ cast. It shows that a great actor can breath life into any role. Warren is mere eye candy in her role as the human female. As you watch the film notice that although the humans live in primitive tribal bands without any technology she manages to have a constant supply of pink glossy lipstick and, er, silicon enhancements. Roth as General Thade is pure evil. Although you cannot recognize him under that makeup you will be impressed with his talent. His violent, animalistic nature is a perfect counterpoint to the gentleness of Ari. Their performances are the reason to watch this film. The gem of the film award goes to Giamatti. A seasoned character actor on both the large and small screens, he provides the required comic relief and treachery that holds the thin plot together. He also gets some of the best lines in the film.

Tim Burton has never a director who takes the safe road with his films. This means his track record inevitably contains a mixture of hits and misses. From Edward Scissorhands, Batman and Bettlejuice his films have always taken the audience down a road rarely trod. His direction is more eclectic in this film than the usual Hollywood film. For one he plays with camera angles quite a bit. The camera takes the audience on an exploration of viewpoints that helps the pacing. The film moves along at a good clip even though action scenes are widely separated. His lighting is often too murky to make details discernable. Burton regular Danny Elfman scored the film. Thankfully, Elfman seems to have moved away from his trademark Vox Humana for this flick. The score picks up the emotional tone dropped by many of the actors. As with all Burton movies the tone is dark and somewhat depressing. Just when you think things will pick up the infamous ending kicks in. Burton does give his typical attention to the slightest details of the production. If you find yourself getting bored at all start watching the background. Little things like a human little person with an ape organ grinder or a chimp trophy wife with a fat, aging politician will give a few chuckles. The also put a lot of thought into how an ape society would live, the use of vines and braches instead of stairs, the layout of their houses all add to a believable world to hold the story. Makeup director Rick Baker has taken the original concepts of John Chambers to create some of the best special effect make up ever. Added to the training the actors received to move like lower primates the presentation is incredible.

The disc is one of the best for showing off your home theater to your friends. The technical features are a cut above most DVDs on the market today. You will have to play this disc on both your home theater and computer to see everything. The script to feature DVD ROM feature is nice but it also shows a lot of last minute changes. The disc is jammed with extras. There is a mode to view added material along with the film, special icons on the screen to switch to additional material viewed in picture in picture format. Six documentaries explore almost every aspect of the production. There is a commentary with Burton and Elfman, five extended scenes and a HBO first look. This is only the tip of what is presented. The murky lighting but otherwise perfect hampers the anamorphic video. The sound booms out around the room. The sub woofer pounds the floor. This is not a film to watch late at night. A good but not great film.

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