Why, god? Why did I do this to myself? Ah, I remember. I said I'd review all the Planet of the Apes movies.
Recommend this product?
"You do realize what this entails, dont you?" my inner self said, on that faithful eve.
"Of course - that means that I have to watch Battle for the Planet of the Apes, which may be a poor movie, but at least it has The Phantom of Paradise and Sheriff Lobo in it. That makes the pill go down easier!"
"No," self said. "That means you have to watch the shitty Tim Burton remake."
But a promise is a promise. So, here I am - time to Man Up and take the punishment. Remember, pain is just weakness leaving the body. . . .
For those of you without a clue, here is the skinny on the plot: An astronaut (in this case, Marky Mark taking over in the Chuck Heston roll) crashes on a mysterious planet where the dominant species is not man, but intelligent apes. Man, of course is a lesser creature, hunted for sport. And so the apes hunt Marky Mark for two hours until he is able to escape the Planet of the Apes, where he lands back on Earth . . . only to find A SHOCK ENDING! THE PLANET OF THE APES WAS EARTH ALL ALONG!! Or something.
So the original Planet of the Apes - in addition to being a well done science fiction movie - had some pretty relevant social themes and commentary to buoy up the script. Taylor started out as a disenfranchised loner who thought humanity sucked before eventually learning to value life. The bitter outsider suddenly find himself having to prove mankind's worth! It spoke of the dangers of nuclear war, and warned of blind faith over reason and logic. Hell, the whole script was an allegory for racism and segregation. In short there were many layers - some subtle, some not so - to the original flick. But then, when you have Rod Serling as one of your screenwriters, what else will you expect?
So what does Tim Burton have? Um. . . . well, I guess a case could be made for how technology is a double-edged sword. And how . . . ape should not kill ape? In short, what Burton does is jettison all moral values and go with a straightforward fight for freedom. If there's subtle context, I'm not finding it.
He also makes paints the apes as traditional bad guys. In the original, while the apes were the antagonists to be sure, they weren't necessarily bad guys. Doctor Zaius was more blinded by his devotion to his faith and a need to keep the status quo. He was ultra conservative and unwilling to accept new ideas (even when they came right and talked to him), but he wasnt mustache twirlingly evil. In the remake however, there is very much a sense that Human = Good, Ape = Evil, especially the fanatical, human-hating General Thade.
And then there's the overall look of the film. While Tim Burton may be a hit or miss director for me (I love Ed Wood, liked Edward Scissorhands, hated Batman and am kind of "Meh, whatever" for Nightmare Before Christmas), I do have to admit that he has an amazing visual style. Even the stuff of his I hate looks slick and inspired. . . except for Planet of the Apes. The visual style on display here is largely forgettable, with flat even studio lighting and boring camera work. There is the rare occasion where his usual style comes through, but for the most part the movie is generic Hollywood direction.
It also doesnt help matters that Marky Mark is no Heston. Even at his lowest point, being humiliated and denigrated by the apes, Heston could command the screen with his presence, his charisma and yes - his overacting. Standing there, butt on display for all to see, Heston still had power and stature.
Marky Mark, on the other hand, was your generic rugged good looking action hero. He simply doesnt make you believe that he could be a Spartacus for the human race. In fact, it seems more like he doesnt care for the enslaved humans at all, more than he just wants to get back to his pod and away.
And then there's the ending, an ending so bad, so ridiculous and so inane that it boggles the mind. "The original Planet of the Apes had a twist, so clearly WE must have one too - and it's got to be BETTER!" Never mind that the original actually took time to carefully set up that ending. Oh sure, it comes out of nowhere, but if you look for it in the movie, you see a subtle layering pointing to the Big Dramatic Reveal of the ruined Statue of Liberty. Plus, it's just an iconic moment in cinema history.
So, Marky Mark escapes from the Planet of the Apes in his little rocket pod and flies back through the time warp that brought him to The Future. Upon landing on Earth, he cracks open his pod, looks up and see the Lincoln Memorial - but with an APE LINCOLN!
. . . . um, excuse me?
Oh yes, audience will talk about this ending afterwards, but not because its a powerful denouement, but because nobody will understand what the fuck just happened! If this planet is Earth, then just how did Apes become dominant and assume human culture? Is he further in along in the Planet of the Ape's future? Is that really Earth at all? Did the apes some somehow travel back in time and altered the evolution of Earth?
GAH! Brain getting all hurty now.
THE DVD -
Presented in widescreen anamorphic 2.35:1, the DVD looks good, with nice solid colors and good contrast on the more darker sequences. While the film may not look as impressive as the 1968 version, the DVD looks great.
THE EXTRAS -
It's a crap movie, but the disc is pretty loaded down. We get something called Enhanced Viewing Mode that lets you watch with occasional picture-on-picture vignettes popping up. It's neat, but tough to watch. There's also an audio commentary with Tim Burton which is worth listening to just to hear him try and explain away the incompressible ending. Tim is only slightly less incoherent than the film.
There's an isolated score with Commentary by Danny Elfman - but since I hate Elfman and think he's a no-talent hack, this extra doesnt hold a lot of value for me. There's a handful of cast and crew biographies, a DVDRom copy of the script and an assortment of half hour features outlining various production aspects of the movie - actors learning to behave like apes, details on the make-up process, bits on the scoring and orchestration, some screen tests and a bit on the special effects.
There's five extended scenes that dont add a lot to the film, some multi-angle featurettes of behind the scenes, an HBO special making of, a music video and the two theatrical trailers and a bunch of television spots. Rounding things out is the a gallery of posters and press kit material, a gallery of props and location shooting photos, and a in-character commentary by the apes (probably the best extra on the disc)
THE BOTTOM LINE -
Lets see, shoddy writing, bad directing, weak acting and an ending that makes no sense whatsoever. Yeah, that pretty much sums up Planet of the Apes the 2001 Edition.