Planet Of The Apes
Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Helena Bonhman Carter, Tim Roth, Michael Clarke Duncan, Kris Kristofferson, Estella Warren...and Charlton Heston for a second.
Never send a monkey to do a man's job!
*So, yeah, I'm behind on this. But, I've been physically unable to type since last Thursday and today is the first day I feel "okay" to give it a go. I finish what I start. And dammit, we're gonna finish Apes even if it is a week later!
Summer of 2001, I was STOKED for this movie to come out. This remake was something us film geeks had been hearing rumblings throughout most of the 90s for. Mostly I had heard of it as an Arnold Schwarzenneger passion project, to which I've mentioned I can actually see how similar he and Heston would be in the lead. Ultimately it wound up going to Tim Burton, who was probably my favorite all time director working at the time. This was going to be amazing. Mark Wahlberg seemed like an odd switch for Arnold, but this was probably a film going into a completely different direction anyway. I think Burton also brought the term "reimagining" into public conscience the way The Phantom Menace popularized "Prequel" or Batman Begins announced "reboot". The director wanted us to know he was doing Planet Of The Apes, but is wasn't going to be a remake or a sequel or prequel. So that term loomed largely over this as to not compare or expect what you've seen before.
I hadn't seen this film since I first saw it with my sister back in 2001. And after the film I felt very "eh" about it. I think that was my way back then of not realizing I didn't like something I paid my money for to see in the theater. I didn't care much for the film and never really thought much about it after that day. This retrospective is my first journey back to Tim Burton's Apes film. Its odd that in a franchise I really adore so much, that I've never went back to this. Hell, I've even seen Halloween: Resurrection and Freddy's Dead more times than is healthy and with regularity, but this film never got that treatment. That whole, give it another go. And in terms of this franchise, its easily skippable as it just sits out there all by itself. There is no connective tissue between it or anything else in this series.
Upon my latest viewing, in which I dropped $7.99 on for the Blu-ray (but alas, I got a free ticket for Dawn! Balance!), this felt like the longest movie ever. For a movie with honestly fantastic makeup and outstanding sets, its a complete slug and incredibly BORING. Its a simple story trying to be overly complex and it makes some things not appear to make sense or feel like a waste of time. It feels like the film was worried most about getting its sets, effects and makeup right and realized...oh crap we probably should flesh out this script!
We've got a good cast that gives great performances, but some of it is just baffling. What is Kris Kristofferson doing in this movie? He's got like 2 scenes and two lines and dead. There's a weight of importance they seem to be trying to get us onto but he amounts to nothing. There's also this...love triangle?...going on with Wahlberg, Carter and Warren. However, there is absolute no chemistry, nothing with Wahlberg and Warren (remember when they were pushing her on us as the next "thing"). It feels less awkward watching Leo kiss the ape than it does the human. Its almost as if the script is like the Apes treat the humans "Hey, you are an attractive man and you are an attractive woman...so...like...hook up or something". But then, you have this crummy script, but people like Tim Roth and Helena Bonham Carter performing the hell out of it.
Yes, I did praise the effects. The makeup work is absolutely phenomenal still. They have taken the concepts of the original apes and modernized it, making them look more real, less like make up and more ape than before. This holds up. This is still really terrific. Now, the sets, which I did say were outstanding...are exactly that. Except, they look and feel like sets. The forests don't even feel real. I don't feel transported to this world at all, but I do feel like I'm on a really cool movie set. They almost feel like those action stunt show things at Universal Studios and whatnot. Also, with all these great sets to look at...why does this whole movie feel like it takes place at night? Weird right?
Burton's Apes winds up being one of those group travel movies. We dick around in ape village accomplishing next to nothing, then we get to wander the desert forever in search of the final act of the script. When watching it this time, I noticed this script might be the poster child for most cliche-ridden route summer blockbuster dialogue I've ever seen in a movie. Like, the strutcture of every scene, the line deliveries, the jokes, the one-liners just all feel like it was birthed from the fornication of big summer movies of the time. And it makes for some really lame dialogue the whole film.
Whenever I'm entering the phase of a retrospective where I get that film or films that don't have the most respected following I tend to get a little more excited because I go in with lowered expectations and open to looking for the good in the film rather than the obvious bad stuff we've heard about incessantly. I don't want to be the 10,000th guy on the web to write what you already know about why Batman & Robin isn't a good movie. I like to take the more challenging and alternative angle as to say "Okay, we know all that bad stuff, but what are the things it manages to do well" while at the same time brushing over its faults in a more balanced attack. With Tim Burton's Apes movie, I really struggled to find much good at all. The film is a complete slug of a film that seemed to just try and make a movie up on the spot using cool makeup and effects. I thought time away and unfamiliarity might work in its favor, but I really had a hard time pushing through this one. Its not the worse movie I've ever seen, not even close. But its in that boring middle ground, a blockbuster that cost a ton of money and didn't show me much of anything to take away at the end. Oh yeah, that ending...I don't see how its "confusing" to people. Its that Twilight Zone hook. Its mildly amusing though, too. The ending is the worst of Tim Burton's Planet Of The Apes' problems.
Next Time: Yes, indeed, RISE we will!