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Kelly Parks
Planet of the Apes - 2001
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SHOULD YOU?
TIP JAR
POTA - 2001
!!!THE SCIENCE MOMENT!!!
PLANET OF THE APES
SEQUELS, PREQUELS, REMAKES
PLANET OF THE APES - 2001
20th Century Fox
RATINGS: Argentina: 13 / UK: 12 / USA: PG-13

Normally I insist on good science in my science fiction and raise holy hell when they don't provide it. There have, however, been a few movies where the science absolutely sucked but I liked it anyway. Okay, actually there are only two: Star Wars and the original PLANET OF THE APES (given everything from oak trees to English-speaking Chimpanzees, Heston should have known where he was long before Lady Liberty came around the corner).

Having made an exception for the original I was prepared to cut a similar amount of slack for the re-make (excuse me, the "re-imagining"). Is that enough to make this a good movie?

PLANET OF THE APES (2001) was directed by Tim Burton (EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, MARS ATTACKS!, SLEEPY HOLLOW) and written by William Broyles, Jr. (ENTRAPMENT), Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal (co-writers of MERCURY RISING, SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK).

The story opens on board a United States Air Force space station in the year 2029. Standard issue "hot pilot who doesn't play by the rules" Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg: FEAR) is training a chimpanzee to pilot a very small space capsule. Training these genetically enhanced smart chimps (I wonder where that subplot will lead?) to be pilots seems to be the major activity of this station, much to the chagrin of Leo. He wants to fly the thing himself, damn it! But his by-the-book commanding officer won't let him. Of course NASA hasn't launched a chimp into space for 30 years but we'll set that aside.

The crew is studying a "space storm"” near the station, which I assume is why the station is there although that's not made clear. The storm appears periodically and the station commander orders the launch of a chimp-piloted capsule to explore this magical plot device. When his chimp buddy is lost Leo takes this opportunity to disobey a direct order and head out in his own capsule to rescue his simian friend. The storm apparently sends him both across the galaxy to another world and into the far future. He crashes into a small lake deep in the jungle and barely survives.

Paul Giametti - PotA, 2001
THE FUNNIEST SLAVER THIS SIDE OF APE CITY.

Before he has a chance to wring out his shirt he's caught up in a group of humans fleeing through the jungle. These people are dressed in rags and animal skins and are clearly terrified. They are being chased, of course, by the ape military, led by General Thade (Tim Roth: RESEVOIR DOGS, PULP FICTION) and his right hand ape Attar (Michael Clarke Duncan: THE GREEN MILE). Leo ends up in a cage on his way to becoming a slave in Ape City.

This all happens very fast. There's almost no dialogue and the cinematography will leave you dizzy. The pace reminded me a lot of THE MUMMY RETURNS. Now I like a minimum of exposition but c'mon! You have no time to care about any of these characters. The result is they all become mildly interesting caricatures with no depth at all.

Tim Roth and Mark Wahlberg - PotA, 2001
BANANAS DO A BODY GOOD
There are some memorable scenes and cool dialogue here and there. The best is Charleton Heston’s cameo as . . . well, I won’t tell you the character’s name. Just listen for that oh so distinctive voice delivering a very familiar line from the original. Plus I have to give a nod to Paul Giamatti (SAVING PRIVATE RYAN) as Limbo, the slave master. He plays the same well-read weasel he played in The Negotiator and has all the funniest lines.

There's an "animal" rights sub-plot lead by Ari (
Helena Bonham Carter: FIGHT CLUB, FRANKENSTEIN [1994]), daughter of a senator and determined that humans be treated as equals. There's also a story element I must point out that was lacking in the original: it is a fact that even the wimpiest chimpanzee is quite a bit stronger than an adult human male. And a gorilla is many times stronger still. This is made clear in many scenes where even a muscular man like the underused Karubi (Kris Kristofferson: BLADE, BLADE II, ROLLOVER) tries his best to fight back but is helpless against ape strength.

And my review wouldn’t be complete without a

!!!SCIENCE MOMENT!!!:
I must admit that the science here is actually better than the original in the sense that the explanation of why apes and humans live here and why they speak English sort of fits (I won’t ruin that surprise for you but whatever you think it is in the first few minutes - you’re right). Of course all the space-travel related details are as wrong as wrong can be. For example it’s popular in movies like this to create an otherworldly feeling by putting multiple moons in the sky. That’s fine as long as they move!

Continued at SCIENCE MOMENT/POTA - 2001.

The final surprise ending is mildly cool (although it's pretty much taken right out of the original book by Pierre Boule) until you think about it. That brings me to my recommendation for anyone who wants to see this movie and enjoy it: don't think. This is nowhere near the intellectual sci-fi masterpiece of the original. It's a big budget check-your-brain-at-the door B movie. I give it two shriek girls.

Shriek GirlShriek Girl
This review copyright 2001 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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