Movie Review

Planet of the Apes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sequences of action/violence

Reviewed by: Brett Willis
CONTRIBUTOR

Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teen to Adult
Genre:
Sci-Fi Action Adventure Mystery Drama Remake
Length:
2 hrs.
Year of Release:
2001
USA Release:
July 27, 2001 (wide)
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation click photos to ENLARGE
Relevant Issues
Tim Roth as Thade and Mark Wahlberg as Leo in Planet of the Apes

apes

horses

slavery

apes hunting humans

desert

science runs amok

caged humans

class differences

evolution

creationism

religion

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Featuring: Mark WahlbergCaptain Leo Davidson
Tim Roth … Thade
Helena Bonham CarterAri
Michael Clarke DuncanAttar
Paul GiamattiLimbo
Estella Warren … Daena
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa … Krull
David Warner … Sandar
Kris KristoffersonKarubi
more »
Director: Tim Burton
Producer: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
The Zanuck Company
Tim Burton Productions
Ralph Winter … executive producer
Richard D. Zanuck … producer
Ross Fanger … associate producer
Katterli Frauenfelder … associate producer
Iain Smith … line producer: London
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Mark Wahlberg stars in Planet of the Apes

It should come as no surprise that this film isn’t about serious issues of any kind. It’s about following a proven formula, creating escapism and making tons of money.

In the near future, a USAF survey spaceship encounters a strange deep-space storm. Per policy, a trained chimp is sent out in a lifepod to investigate (and to test if it’s safe for humans). When the chimp’s pod disappears, Capt. Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg) disobeys orders and takes out another lifepod on a rescue mission. The storm sends Davidson’s lifepod into the future and crashlands it on a planet where talking apes (chimps, orangs and gorillas—no gibbons) are the rulers and humans are slaves.

Helena Bonham Carter in “Planet of the Apes” Ape attitudes toward humans vary widely. Ari (Helena Bonham Carter), a liberal senator’s daughter, wants them regarded as equals. On the other end of the scale, the power-hungry and ruthless Thade (Tim Roth) wants them wiped out. Presumably, the “silent ape majority” is somewhere in between, wanting things to stay pretty much as they are.

Tim Roth in “Planet of the Apes” Davidson enlists Ari’s help in trying to get back to his ship. This results in pitting some apes against others, a gigantic Davidson vs. Thade battle scene, and an ending with more twists and holes than the storm that sent Davidson here in the first place. Just when we think the revelations in the Forbidden Zone have explained what we see, we get zinged again in the finale.

Content warnings: The profanity and suggestive language is very scarce and mild. There are a lot of killings of apes and humans; but they’re shown in a relatively bloodless, impersonal way. Humans are controlled with animal-handling tools including a long grab-collar, and are branded. Thade is a scumball only a little less bad than Roth’s character in “Rob Roy”. it’s understandable that as an ape, Thade might kill humans whom he considers a threat; but he also murders loyal apes when it suits his agenda.

There’s of course an implied evolutionary background, but the apes’ theories of evolutionary advancement are self-serving (apes at the top, then monkeys, then humans). There’s a bedroom scene (interrupted) between a couple consisting of a chimp and an orang, and one member of this couple makes a remark that humans shouldn’t be regarded as equals because there’s enough “diversity” already. In other words, the three ape types are being portrayed as races rather than species. Meanwhile, the apes say that the humans (which include Europeans, Africans and Asians) “all look alike.”

it’s impossible to avoid comparisons with the 1968 version. There are several stolen scenes. The makeup, which was great in the original, is much better; except for the upper lips of some of the female chimps, it’s totally believable. And the ape movements and stunts are fantastic. Probably an Oscar nomination for makeup, and possibly for sound and sound editing. Several characters from the original are given bit parts here. In a screwy humor move, NRA president Charlton Heston plays Thade’s dying father, a chimp who hates humans and their technology, especially guns. He repeats one of his memorable profanity lines from the original, and another ape repeats the other; both lines are placed in a new context. Heston’s co-star Linda Harrison also has a role.

The ending? It made no sense to me. In the original novel, there are repeated shocks as the reader slowly learns that “parallel evolution” is taking place on planets all across the galaxy—humans on each world develop technology first; then apes take over, displace and enslave the humans, and don’t invent anything new but just “ape” some of what they find. The 1968 film version made no attempt to mirror the multi-world premise; it used a shocking and depressing ending of a different kind. The sequels to the earlier version included references to Lamarckian evolution, and a twist involving apes traveling back in time and becoming their own ancestors. Is this version following the novel, the earlier film version, or neither? Can’t tell. Either [1] there were several endings filmed, and they picked the one that had the biggest gut-punch on the test audiences, even if it didn’t make any sense (as in “Along Came a Spider”), or [2] we’re being set up for a sequel (as soon as they can get Marty McFly and Doc under contract).

If you like this kind of stuff, may as well see it. But leave the little kids at home and your brains at the door.

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Viewer Comments
…The film does explore the familiar boundaries of the blueprint for the theory of Evolution. So, we have another opportunity as Christian’s to explain “we don’t have a monkey’s uncle.” Most Christians will find Burton’s religious belief symbolism very offensive. The apes worship a “Christ-like” figure named Semos. He was the first of their kind. Semos is a belief that has been handed down for thousands of years. They also believe that this Semos will one day return. We know that Jesus is real and is not a myth. The problem is that many do seek ways to dismiss the Truth that can set you free.

There are plenty of animal gestures added (you know) for realism. The language and some of the sexual aspects are tame. Overall, the film is the usual disturbing mixed bag that we would expect from the nightmare mind of Tim Burton. Can we over look the more than subtle assault on our beliefs? How about some implied bestiality thrown into the story? What do you think? Try explaining this to your kids…
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 4]
—Douglas Downs
An excellent film, technically. The make-up is as good as advertised, the portrayal of the apes quite convincing, the sets visually exciting and the direction quite good. With all of that, though, one point is inescapable—the story is very poorly written and executed.

First, we are to believe that an Air Force officer is so undisciplined and shallow that he would risk his life, his craft and his fellow astronauts on a jaunt into space against orders for absolutely no good reason. (Being a Navy officer, this really bugs me.)

Second, a crashed, derelict spacecraft that was not designed to enter an atmosphere is still semi-operable after thousands of years in a desert. While I admire Boeing, even THEY can’t do that. Third, the ending was just plain silly. Even if you might be able to stomach the rest of the film, the ending makes you want to ask for your money back. (I actually laughed out loud at the ludicrous plot twist.) Overall, a well-executed movie (technically), but not worth the time.
My Ratings: [Average / 3½]
—Mark Atwood, age 37
I agree with what the reviewers said about the movie… it’s nothing serious. As long as you know how to distinguish fantasy and reality, you can truly enjoy the fantasy exuded in this movie, and have a great time munching on your pop-corn.
My Ratings: [Good / 3]
—RL, age 25
The ending baffles the viewers for strictly the story but the superb make-up effects and excellent performance from the actors in customs are no doubt some of the best in film history. The story is a parody look from the otherside and parelling it to our very existence—it didn’t do much like the original but for pure entertainment joyride, this is a good vehicle. Some scene are terrifying for young viewers due to the intensity of rage and anger sparsly throughout the film.
—Mang Yang, age 29
I loved this movie, and I usually hate this genre! I think Christians need to stop getting so offended and realize that nobody is going to walk away from this film, actually believing that its a lesson on evolution. ITS JUST A MOVIE! Anyone who actually watches Planet of the Apes as a lesson on evolution, obviously needs more schooling. I think it was a fun, non-offensive movie. It was such a relief not to hear the F word in every sentence and although I have never seen the original Planet of the Apes, this movie got me interested and I plan on renting it soon. Kudos to Tim Burton…who, after seeing this movie along with Sleepy Hollow and Ed Wood, has now become one of my favorite directors.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 3½]
—Maggi, age 25
This movie was a nice change from the usual airy flicks I’ve succumbed to watching lately. A great story with an interesting ending and not bad effects is what had shaped this movie to being a “have to see” one. I wouldn’t suggest taking little kids who gets scared easily, but besides that this is good for all ages and tastes. Surprising of most movies these days, there was nothing really offensive and I can’t even remember being any language. A Parent Happy Movie! Action, romance, and whatever else you like in a movie… it has it.
My Ratings: [Good / 4½]
—Miz.Lala, age 17
Frankly I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t enjoy this film (unless you just don’t care for the genre). It is a great action movie with very minimal profanity. The PG-13 rating is obviously for the violence (which is not gory at all) and for the extremely realistic ape make-up, which it wonderful but probably too realistic for children to be comfortable with. My main objection to some of the objections to this film is that it is a FANTASY… I’m not sure all who have viewed it have done so with this in mind. It is not meant to be a projection of our eminent future. It is a great movie that uses a premise of adaptation (or evolution WITHIN a species) which I, as a christian, believe God allows though not to the point taken in the film. But again the film it not real. But it is an awesome, action packed thrill of a ride!
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4½]
—C. Ford (one of very few female reviewer of this film), age 23
Frankly, I’m sorry that I watched this movie. It was one of the few movies where I caught myself looking at my watch with regularity. I missed the old movie the whole time. Unfortunately, since the shocker ending from the old one is so well known, they had to depend on something else entirely, shooting Wahlberg into another movie ENTIRELY at the end.
My Ratings: [Average / 2]
—Will Hose, age 22
This movie was a direct blow to any Patriotic, Christian, Fundamentalist, Conservative Republican or to anyone who even remotely liked the original. All the “good” guys just happened to be evolutionists and atheists, while the “evil” apes believed in their religion to the point of self-denial. Thade, who only wanted what was best for his country, was made to be the parallel to the stereotype of right wing conservatives of today. They made him irrational and hot-tempered, but very religious. This movie also alluded to glorify animal rights activists (Human Rights Activists), and it gave a parallel to slavery, in which, fundamentalists are again portrayed as the bad guys.

The continuous hints about the planet being Earth and constant references to evolution killed the effect the original movie had. The biggest thing that destroyed the movie, was the ending. Not only did they take out the ending that made the original great, but they replaced it with one that didn’t make any sense (did he travel back in time the first time, if so why do the apes look the same, doesn’t this movie rely on evolution).
My Ratings: [Average / 2]
—Chris Fisher, age 17
Wow! This is one film you won’t soon forget. This is a compelling, fun, and all around blast of a movie—but parents be warned—this film IS NOT FOR YOUNG CHILDREN! The film contains much violence and intense images that would scare young children. There is also minimal profanity. If you were a fan of the original, you may find a couple of the mimic’d lines annoying. If you’ve never seen any of the “Apes” before, try this out. you’ll roar all over it—and the ending is a true shocker.
My Ratings: [Average / 4½]
—John W., age 17
This is technically not a remake of the 1968 sci-fi classic, but rather a “reinvention” of the basic idea… The original, which starred Charlton Heston as the astronaut, was a brilliant movie, with a literate script and some fascinating performances and character studies. The new version alas, is just like any other ballyhooed summer movie, heavy on FX and visual style and deficient in story, acting and characters. As the astronaut, Mark Wahlberg is very bland and uninteresting, giving none of the depth Heston brought to the original. Helena Bonham-Carter fares better as the sympathetic ape, while Tim Roth chews the scenery madly as the ape general who wants to exterminate the humans…

There are also other self-conscious references to the original which in a strange way end up showing the overall lack of imagination Burton and his writers have brought to the project. It makes for an uneven tone where the film veers from straight action to self-conscious parody to weak sermonizing. The “reverse evolution” debate aspect of the original movie isn’t dealt with in this movie, but there is in fact a more condescending attitude toward religious faith than one could ever accuse the original movie of having, especially when Carter muses her disdain over how the Apes account of creation was a fairy tale developed to provide an explanation for later generations.

Also, there is a subtle implication of romantic attraction between the human Wahlberg and the ape Carter that while leading to nothing more than one goodbye kiss will still seem somewhat disquieting. In terms of graphic violence and profanity though, there is relatively little. In the tradition of the original film, there is a “shock ending,” but unlike the original is an ending that makes no sense whatsoever (even though it’s lifted from the ending of the original Pierre Boulle novel). This “reinvention” is typical of the kind of mindless, substance free entertainment that gets produced today by Hollywood. For those who want to see a more literate, yet equally fun sci-fi movie, the original is still highly recommended.
My Ratings: [Average / 2]
—Eric Paddon, age 32
Just when you thought they couldn’t make another Planet of the Apes movie, Hollywood proves you wrong. And the best part about this remake of the 1968 Sci-Fi classic—it has Charlton Heston in it. Admittedly, it’s only a cameo role, but it’s well worth the price of admission. He plays an ape. …Burton’s art direction and the makeup department are clearly the stars of this production. And how could they not be with Mark Wahlberg (Perfect Storm) as the star of this retro retread. Is it just me or is this guy the most uninspired leading man of his generation?

…As a movie, Planet of the Apes definitely holds your attention. And the art direction is excellent (except that the Apes’ medieval village looks suspiciously like Whoville) If you loved the original of course, you may not care for this one. But at least, it mixes up the plot enough to keep it fresh. And that may be the one thing that will offend some Christians. In addition to the evolution-based plot, this version adds a touch of holy-roller Ape religion. The big gorillas (played interestingly by African-Americans) are the more-devout-than-average believers in Semos, the first ape who promised to return at the end of the age.

Of course, the educated with-it apes like Ari don’t swallow that stuff for a minute. And in the end we find the gorillas’ scripture-based faith is nothing but wishful thinking. Of course, Ari admits, truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. Will her grandchildren ever believe, she ponders, the story of the human who descended from the heavens and brought salvation to an enslaved humanity? Nah, that stuff only happens in fairy tales. Or does it?
My Ratings: [Average / 3½]
—Artie Megibben, age 48
Well, I have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised by Tim Burton’s latest creation. I found this film quite interesting. While Mark Wahlberg does a fine job as the lead, I found the Tim Roth performance to be the most fun. Roth (From Rob Roy, Reservoir Dogs, and Pulp Fiction) is a terrific actor, and the character was just so much fun to watch. Now, about the ending. I really liked it. I’ve heard that most don’t like the ending for some reason. I thought it was twisted, but in a very fun way. And I think it would make this ending all the better if there was no sequel. (I don’t know if one is planned. I hope not. Remakes don’t need sequels. It all just gets too confusing at that point.)

Also, there is a twist thrown in about 2/3 of the way into the movie which I really, really liked. If you saw the movie, you have to know what I mean. The romantic angles in the movie were shoved to the side, and that’s probably a good thing. The pace of the movie was pretty good, as well. I don’t think the action faltered at all, in fact, I thought the movie hit all the right notes with its action sequences. The first one was kind of confusing, which I think was the point. And the last one is the biggest, and the most elaborate, which is something Jurassic Park 3 should’ve done. A very enjoyable movie, one of the summer’s best.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
—Jason Eaken, age 17
Under cover of an action film, Tim Burton, in Planet of the Apes, has crafted a clever anti-creation myth which slyly repudiates religion while simultaneously affirming the “science” of evolution. The religion of the apes consists of the narrative found in what Ari (Helena Bonham Carter’s character) calls “holy writings” and which she acknowledges may be only “legends.” These assert that the race of apes derive from a proto-ape named Simos whose Second Coming is expected by the faithful.

Additionally, there is much transparent anti-slavery posturing to remind us of the evil perpetrated against African-Americans amidst dinner table discussions as to whether humans have a soul: the kind of conversation that some well-educated whites had in the 19th century regarding their slaves. The evolution/anti-racism party line is repeated throughout the film as Ari asserts that humans can learn to be like apes if given an opportunity. Other characters mention evolution in contrast to the religious ignorance of apes like Krull (Ari’s guardian) and Attar (the evil Thade’s assistant). For example, Krull demonstrates a benighted, Inquisition-like mentality when he destroys Davidson’s blaster because he considers it to be “sorcery.” Davidson (Wahlberg) replies: “Science, not sorcery.”

For his part, Attar worships at a candle-lit shrine which contains the likeness of an ape, raising the implicit comparison that Man worships a god made in his own image as well. When caught, the humans are branded with a symbol which is a thinly-veiled cross, although the bar is bent upward at both ends to disguise the obvious symbolism. The symbol does double-duty: it is the mark of the civil slavery from which the humans must be set free; but also it represents the slavery of false belief (i.e., Christianity) from which the apes must be set free. During the climactic battle at movie’s end, a deus ex machina descends from the heavens and accomplishes both purposes, exposing both the ape creation myth and the inferiority of the humans as a lie which the distortion of history (represented metaphorically by an electric storm in the cosmos) has effected. Burton’s ironic touches are scattered throughout the film.

For instance, Leo Davidson (the Lion of Judea + “David’s son” = Jesus) arrives on the planet to “save” the humans from their enslavement, while a genetically-altered chimp (for the benefit of the animals-are-people-too crowd) flies his own spacecraft to a safe landing on the planet and is accepted by the apes as Simos (note the consonant-vowel similarity to “Jesus”) and the Second Coming. Attar, abruptly loses his faith when he sees that Simos is an inferior chimp. Leo informs him of Thade’s deception in perpetrating the myth of apes as the proto-species and in a matter of minutes the apes are blithely converted to scientific atheism while the humans are saved from the bondage of their ignorance and savagery.

In one of the film’s paradoxical moments, Burton casts the NRA’s Charlton Heston as the evil Thade’s (Tim Roth) father who has known all along that humans preceded apes and the symbol of human superiority is a gun preserved for thousands of years. To summarize, the movie is relatively inoffensive: it is not good enough art to be disturbing, nor is it coherent enough in its message to damage anyone’s faith. Still, one should see it for what it is and not be deceived by this or any other ideological entertainment.
My Ratings: [Average / 3]
Michael Karounos, age 47