This review is part of a series of reviews Journey to the Planet of the Apes to prepare for the newest installment.
You can find all the reviews here.
A decade ago and almost 30 years after the hilarious Battle for the Planet of the Apes Tim Burton decided to start a project he perfected with Alice in Wonderland: to take a great original movie, remove everything remotely interesting and give us a horrendous adaptation in name only.
It might seem radical to say that this is the worst movie with the name Planet of the Apes in the title, especially when considering such masterpieces of failure as Conquest and Battle, but after thinking about it quite some time with ape-Lincoln as my guidance I am now sure that this movie at least ties with Battle or is even worse than the fifth part.
The technology of the Planet of the Apes
The only redeeming factor this movie has is the technology and the make-up. With an enormous 100 million dollars budget Burton had enough talent to waste for his bland movie, so this movie manages to have astonishing production value and still be a bore. The ape make-up is damn good, especially coming from Battle the improvement rocks your world and whoever was responsible for the training, they did a good job of having the actors at least attempt to act like apes. There is a lot of (nowadays obvious) wirework when the apes jump to make them more animalistic and they are not standing up as straight as the previous incarnations, still they look like humans in ape costumes and their mimics are still hindered by the layers of make up on them.
I will cover this especially tomorrow with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but suffice to say is that I think thanks to James Cameron we will very soon outgrow the “make-up is the way to go”-nostalgia, but I am getting ahead of myself and need to see more than a few clips of Andy Serkis to confirm my theories.
The story of the Planet of the Apes
Like Transformers 2 and 3 showed us, you can look as good as you want, your movie can still suck and Burton’s remake is no exception. Now the screenplay apparently had gone through a lot of stages, some involving timetravel and a bible code telling the future, there was a version featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger (instead we got Jingle all the way), even Michael Bay declined and finally Burton gave us his “re-imagining”.
It is the story of an astronaut played by Mark Wahlberg who goes into a SCIENCE thing and gets thrown (spoiler alert) into the future. On a planet where Apes rule humans.
A lot of times you need a bad movie to point out what was so good about another movie (Iron Man 2, The Dark Knight) and if you ever have enough time and masochism in you I urge you to do a double feature, watching the original and then the remake back to back. The inferiority of Burton’s version sticks out like a sore thumb.
Gone is the incredibly bold and (for American standards) provocative discussion about intelligent design and faith. In this version key elements remain but without the gravitas and importance they previously had. So we see General Thade (Tim Roth) killing two monkey guards to keep the origin of the human a secret, but we never really know why other than “he’s evil”.
Dr. Zaius, the scientist/preacher from part I was similar, but when he tells Taylor at the end that man will always destroy you can’t help to admire that slimebag a little bit – at least he has a pretty darn good conviction (and come on if you had seen a blown up statue of liberty you might check your priorities as well) and the fascinating thing is that he can ignore his scientific postulates, deliberately lie about history and still having a good conscience about everything.
Zaius is the worst kind of villain, the one he is absolutely convinced he is doing the right thing. He is never as flat out aggressive as Thade but has a danger that comes in another, sneakier form.
Also gone is the fact that humans can no longer talk, which is… odd to say the least.
I mean just look at our current society, Family Guy can’t even kill a kitty without sending shockwaves through the internet, now imagine that your cat could voice her opinion just like you… well I wouldn’t stop calling her unfunny names in my annoyingly high pitched voice, but there might be someone who would feel uncomfortable putting his talking cat into pajamas and making funny youtube videos.
But those apes never seem to think about humans as intelligent it is just baffling – not as baffling if you haven’t seen the original of course – how can they say phrases about humans being stupid when their own culture is so idiotic they don’t realize the power of speech is a sign of intelligence.
When Taylor gets shot in the original he is unable to speak for a while and this makes for some great tension when he just wants to be understood and we the audience feel with him because we know he can talk and we know he can understand the apes. It is also the reason Zira and Cornelius (the ape scientists) are interested in him. Their interest at first is scientific curiosity which grows into affection because they become friends, but with this version Burton faced a big problem: how can Mark Wahlberg stand out for Helena Bonham Carter?
And he used the best plotdevice that Lost perfected: Destiny! Isn’t that great? She just knows he is different… somehow. Smoke Monster did it!
All the other characters are non-existent. Their motivations are vague as best (first and foremost Carter’s character and her bodyguard) and Estella Warren is just there to look hot – she actually manages to have less character than the female Nova from part I and II who couldn’t talk! And along with them there goes the annoying kid who was inserted to screw things up at the last minute.
Then the obvious break out happens and they get chased by General Evil until they finally get to the end of the movie. Before that we have to see some of the most awkward scenes when the apes are given human characteristics (playing cards, standing infront of a mirror to wash the smell off) all those scenes are just idiotic and nowhere near as surreal as the epic sauna scene in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. So after a tedious build up (and no schoolbus this time) the Battle for the Planet of the Apes starts!
Entering the forbidden zone Wahlberg is looking for his crew because he gets the homing signal of the ship. If you know the series just take a wild guess if he will be happy with what he finds? Right.
Turns out he travelled to the future and his mothership crashlanded on this planet. Having not seen Conquest they didn’t know about the horrible side effects of ape butlers and so humans where once again overthrown and the 20-something scientists had enough incest relationships to populate this planet…
In the only awesome scene of the movie (after the annoying kid screwed up) Wahlberg activates the engines of the ship and blows the apes away… at least the first wave. When it becomes clear that the humans have no chance of winning the almighty plot descends and regulates the situation, so we can have a sappy “aren’t we all happy” ending.
The other ending
No review about the remake is complete unless it mentions the biggest bullshit that ever happened in the entire series (bigger than “no” and “do” mind you) when Wahlberg (for whatever reason) decides to take off with the starship that appeared to end the story and do SCIENCE. I am not really sure of his intentions. He seems to go back in time and like most movie characters he obviously hasn’t seen Terminator or doesn’t think about paradoxes. He lands in Washington but instead of a paradox he gets the Lincoln Memorial, this time dedicated to General Evil. An armada of police cars appears but the people who exit the cars are not humans… they are … APES!
People claim that there is no sense in this ending, but having it watched after ten years a second time, I finally understand: It is the afterlife, the final proof in this series that there 1) indeed is a God and 2) he has a sense of justice 3) combined with a sense of humor.
Mark Wahlberg who showed nowhere something called affection to his coworkers at the beginning had the opportunity to help two societies, be their personal Jesus and screw Estella Warren, he had it all and for no reason he left and didn’t even take the woman with him (contrary to Charlton Heston), so I think God just said “ungrateful bastard” and Wahlberg got what he deserved.
I think I have already said enough, watch this movie after the original and you will see how bad it really is.