Planet of the Apes

Directed by Tim Burton
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Estella Warren, Michael Clarke Duncan, Paul Giamatti, Kris Kristofferson.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sequences of action/violence.

Review by Matt Heffernan <>
August 8, 2001

It's been some time since I saw Tim Burton's re-envisioning of Planet of the Apes. I saw it over vacation and now I'm back to work, but apparently too late for the millions of people who saw it on opening weekend. Luckily, word of mouth spread, and its box office for the second weekend dropped 60%, making me feel less guilty about taking the time off.

I feel that I must attempt to explain this film's premise, even though seeing the film now seems like a long-dissipated nightmare. As I recall, Mark Wahlberg plays a maverick research scientist in space who hijacks an escape pod to retrieve a lost chimpanzee. He ends up going through some sort of space storm, and ends up on... well, you know. Only this time, there's no Statue of Liberty waiting for him on the beach. This planet is actually an extra-terrestrial planet run by highly-evolved apes who dominate the weaker humans.

How did this affront to Darwin occur? Well, you have to stick through it until Surprise Ending #1. But that's not the real deusy. No sir, that honor belongs to Surprise Ending #2. I read one article that attempted to explain it, but it still leaves me perplexed. Certainly, it will only serve to confuse and anger the people who see it, making them prime targets for natural deselection. As fanciful as that would be, however, bad movies were not the proposed cause of simian domination.

I'm afraid to admit it, but Tim Burton has really made a stinker. Pee Wee's Big Adventure and Mars Attacks may have their detractors, but I doubt that many people could defend this monstrosity. Remember how the original Planet of the Apes series tried to make an intelligent commentary about racism and nuclear annihilation? You can forget about that here. Burton's films aren't generally know for good screenplays, but this Hollywood boardroom product was atrocious. Perhaps it came from an adjacent room instead.

Normally, script weaknesses can be overcome by Burton's incredible visual flair, but this is certainly the ugliest film he has ever made. It looks like every other underlit, overbudget action film that scores of lesser talents have created. The only justification I can see for this film is to show off the ape makeup by Rick Baker. This is the only capacity in which this film improves over the originals. But where is the lyrical beauty of Edward Scissorhands? The gloriously gruesome action of Sleepy Hollow? The twisted sensibility of Beetlejuice? Nothing can be found in this film other than the clichés practiced by Roland Emmerich and Michael Bay.

At this point, somebody needs to seriously question Burton's sanity. He seems to have gone from mad genius to just a regular madman with one film. It's 110 minutes of banal crap followed the most -- excuse me -- fucked up ending I have ever seen. It could have been worse, I suppose, if it had bad actors and went on even longer, but perhaps Burton still has some compassion for his audience underneath the madness.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Planet of the Apes (2001)

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Planet of the Apes, a novel by Pierre Boulle (translated by Xan Fielding) -- Hardcover
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La Planete des Singes, a novel by Pierre Boulle -- Paperback
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Review © 2001 Matt Heffernan