PLANET OF THE APES(2001)
With Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Clarke Duncan, Paul Giamatti, Estella Warren, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, David Warner, Kris Kristofferson
Directed by Tim Burton
Reviewed by JB
Several reasons I think the original PLANET OF THE APES is still superior to Tim Burton's reimagining:
1) CHARLTON HESTON VS. MARK WAHLBERG
Okay, I'm not going to knock Mark Wahlberg for not being Charlton Heston, but in a movie where one man must battle an army of apes, if that one man isn't Charlton Heston, then it damn well better be Bruce Willis or Arnold Schwarzenegger. Somebody who simply walk in and own a scene simply by virtue of who he is. Toshiro Mifune. John Wayne. I'm not talking about acting talent, and if you want to argue Wahlberg is a better actor than Heston, I might giggle a little but will still respect your point of view. We're talking about screen presence. You have to have screen presence, major screen presence, "I own this thing!" screen presence because you are trying to hold your own in a film where the majority of the rest of your cast is, you know, a planet of apes.
Charlton Heston had it, Mark Wahlberg doesn't. There's a reason Heston was often cast as historical and biblical figures and last man on Earth heroes. It's because he looked like a solid brick wall and sounded like a Greek God, and vice versa. Of course, in the original PLANET OF THE APES, Heston was helped a great deal by the script, which gave him at least three classic lines that have survived through time: "It's a madhouse! A maaaaadhooooouse!", "Get your stinking' paws off me, you damn, dirty ape!" and, of course, "Damn you all to hell!". Wahlberg gets no such help from a script loaded with standard, lackluster dialogue, forced attempts at cultural references ("Can't we all just get along?") and nudge-nudge wink-wink rewrites of lines from the original film. "Damn them all to hell!" says Heston himself about humans, in his bit part as a dying ape in one of the best scenes in the film simply because Heston, in one of his last film roles, still had that arresting voice that makes one stop in their tracks and listen.
2) KIM HUNTER VS. HELENA BONHAM CARTER
Now this is not meant to be a knock against Helena Bonham Carter, whom I adore. It's more about the ape makeup. There is no doubt that Rick Baker's ape makeup in the Tim Burton film is light-years ahead of the makeup in the original film, although that original makeup was innovative and, more importantly, still works more than forty years later. In either movie, when you are hidden under layers of ape makeup, you have to work harder to project a personality. There are two ways of doing this. One - be a damn good actor, a category which both Hunter and Bonham Carter fall into. Two - project yourself! Hunter, along with co-stars Roddy McDowall and Maurice Evans, quickly learned how to do this by over-acting. Approximate half of their acting would be absorbed through the makeup, leaving just enough acting to actually seem perfectly natural. It's really not Hunter vs. Carter, it's acting through one kind of makeup vs. acting through another. When you've got Helena Bonham Carter and Michael Clark Duncan in your cast, you want as much of them to shine through the makeup because they're so damn good, and unfortunately it doesn't happen in HBC's case. Tim Roth and Paul Giamatti certainly do much better in projecting themselves through the layers of rubber, but many of the other parts might as well have been played byanybody. It took me half an hour to realize it was Helena Bonham Carter under that makeup, and that was only because I stopped to look it up. By contrast, Glenn Shadix and Lisa Marie, neither exactly household names, excel at bursting through their makeup in what are really minor parts during a dinner party scene.
Kim Hunter could still get that twinkle in her eyes, through all that makeup. The real Helena Bonham Carter , the one I love, seems hopelessly lost behind hers.
3) FRANKLIN P. SCHAFFNER VS. TIM BURTON
Franklin P. Schaffner directed some very good and interesting movies, including PATTON, PAPILLON and THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL. But one never talks about these being a "Franklin P. Schaffner Movie". He was a talented, Oscar-winning director (PATTON) with a flare for big, epic, bombastic movies, but you are not going to look at his PLANET OF THE APES and think "This has Schaffner written all over it." There's not really a Schaffner style. He just knew how to direct TV and movies and he did his job extremely well. Tim Burton, on the other hand, has a style we can recognize, or at least he had at one time. PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE, BEETLEJUICE, BATMAN, BATMAN RETURNS, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, MARS ATTACKS! --- these are all "Tim Burton Films". Yet if his name wasn't on the opening credits, there would be hardly any way of telling if Burton's PLANET OF THE APES was a Burton film or not. So why bother having Burton direct at all?
4) THE ENDING
Surprise endings to movies only work once, and sometimes they don't work at all. The ending to the original PLANET OF THE APES was a punch in the gut, made sense and then faded out with only the sounds of the ocean waves playing on the soundtrack. The ending to Burton's PLANET OF THE APES made no sense at all, despite hundreds of arguments you may find on the Internet, and then went on for about a minute too long, which allowed moviegoers additional time to think to themselves "Gosh! That's just really, really stupid!" several times over.
There are other reasons the original is, and always will be, the better film. Clearly defined and edited action sequences versus frantically edited, murky ones. Classic lines versus bland, colorless ones. The original PLANET OF THE APES is arguably one of the top five greatest science fiction movies of all time. The reimagined PLANET OF THE APES is not even one of Tim Burton's top ten films.
Oh, and there's a character called Nova in the remake, but she's a chimp. The character we knew as Nova from the first film is called Daena here. Why? It's a madhouse! A maaaadhouse!
Please, Hollywood, refrain from remaking this one again.
OF THE MOUTHS OF APES
"“I cannot explain that ending. I have seen it twice and I don’t understand anything.” - Tim Roth, on the final moments of the film.