Planet of the Apes

Coming from somebody with as much imagination as Tim Burton, the new 're-envisioning' of Planet of the Apes is a disappointment. It does look marvelous as only Burton can imagine, but the story, dialogue, and characterization bring down the overall level of quality. Again, a man crash-lands on a planet where apes rule and humans are slaves. This time, the man is Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg, The Perfect Storm, The Yards), a US Air Force pilot. Davidson flew into an electromagnetic storm to rescue a chimp, and found himself stranded on this planet. Like all other outsiders in movies, Davidson does not obey the status quo, and quickly goes about bringing change. Ari (Helena Bonham Carter, Fight Club, The Theory of Flight) is an ape sympathetic to the plight of the humans. She is a maverick herself, willing to help humans, and she runs off with Davidson, Daena (Estella Warren, Driven, Perfume), and an assortment of intrepid humans and sympathetic apes.

Yet, Planet of the Apes is no grand allegory to slavery or equality. As told by William Broyles Jr. (Cast Away, Entrapment), Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal (Mighty Joe Young, Mercury Rising) off the original novel by Pierre Boulle, this readaptation is a big, summer action adventure. There is nothing inherently interesting about any of the individual characters, and Wahlberg does not exert enough charisma to be the leading man. There are lame efforts at comic relief by Paul Giamatti (Duets, Big Momma's House) channeling Jim Carrey. The main enemy, General Thade (Tim Roth, Vatel, Bread and Roses) is a sneering, evil ape, and nothing more. There is also an attempt to show dissension amongst the apes themselves by using Michael Clarke Duncan (Cats and Dogs, See Spot Run) and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Pearl Harbor, The Art of War), but like most of the other plot strands, this one never fully develops and resolves quickly. Planet of the Apes contains what seems like various stories waiting to be told, but instead of focusing on one or two it moves scattershot through many.

The apes were one of the reasons the original movies looked so cheesy. This time around, special effects wizard Rick Baker (whose recent credits include The Grinch and Nutty Professor II: The Klumps) uses his skill to create amazingly lifelike ape costumes for the actors. Some of them like Carter and Roth augment their performances by changing the way they move and walk. There are definite divisions in a caste-like society, with soldiers, politicians, and ordinary people all taking on different traits and looks from different species. The overall look is a lot less ominous than some of Burton's (Sleepy Hollow, Mars Attacks!) other films, but he still creates a unique world. The apes live in cities that look like combinations of forests and buildings. Tents and armor look barely familiar, as if apes really had designed them. Still, for all of Burton's trademark striking visuals, Planet of the Apes never works as a whole. It even has the audacity to blatantly set up an inevitable sequel. Hopefully, that one will be better.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 59 minutes, Rated PG-13 for some sequences of action violence.

Back to Movies