The Planet Of The Apes Films – Part 6 of 8: Planet Of The Apes (2001)

Our tale begins in 2029 aboard the United States Air Force Space Station Oberon.

Primates are used for deep space missions. The chimpanzee Pericles is sent out in a pod to investigate a solar storm and gets into some difficulty.

His handler, the pilot Leo Thompson jumps into a pod and rockets out to rescue him. Inexplicably he finds himself sucked into a wormhole – and is spat out onto the surface of a strange jungle world.

He’s astonished to find that sentient apes rule over human slaves.

With the help of a sympathetic chimp Ari and a band of human rebels – Leo leads an effort to survive the onslaught of brutal chimpanzee General Thade and his trusted gorilla second-in-command Attar.

Leo must find his way to an ancient temple in the Forbidden Zone where shocking secrets will be revealed.

This film’s legacy is that it introduced the term “reimagining” into the lexicon of modern day blockbuster filmmaking . It’s a term we all came to loathe very quickly.

Remakes have never really been anything new – but the modern trend of crap ones knocked out quickly to make money?

I do believe all that started here.

I was really looking forward to this film. I’d followed the progress of a remake for many years prior to it’s release. I remember being very excited by the rumour that it would be a collaboration between James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Oh man how AWESOME could that have been?

Even though that never did come to pass I was still optimistic that a director like Tim Burton could do something interesting with it.

He didn’t.

Let’s get the good stuff out of the way. Rick Baker’s ape makeup is astonishing. Danny Elfman’s score is one of his better ones. Tim Roth is superb as the snarling villain Thade – as is Michael Clarke Duncan as Attar. Helena Bonham Carter is also very good as Ari.

This has one of the best supporting casts I’ve ever seen in a movie. Paul Giamatti, Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa, David Warner, Kris Kristoffersen are all welcome faces.

The problem is pretty much everything else. It’s just a BAD film.

Mark Wahlberg is NO Charlton Heston (who makes an amusing cameo btw). He  just sleepwalks through this film.

It’s badly written. It opens with some of the most thin character exposition I’ve seen in a film. A half assed attempt to make a protagonist interesting that actually just makes him more even more boring and generic.

When I watched the movie again to do this review – it actually made me wince with it’s awfulness.

The dialogue is ABYSMAL. The film has lines like “He’s the canary, that’s the coalmine” and “Never send a monkey to do a man’s job” delivered in the first ten minutes! Doesn’t bode well for the rest of the damn film does it?

It’s a shockingly amateur job. I admire Tim Burton and he’s made some wonderful films – but this just wasn’t right for him. This material would’ve been better suited to a filmmaker like Roland Emmerich, David Twohy, Peter Hyams or Nicolas Meyer.

The outdoor sequences look like they were filmed on sound-stages.

The best way to describe this movie? It’s like a bad episode of Star Trek stretched to feature length.

For a big budget early 21st Century blockbuster – especially one that’s designed to reignite a long dormant but still iconic franchise – it’s remarkable how downright SHODDY this film is.

A colossally bad film. And yes, that ending is STILL just as fucking stupid.

The Man Who Saved Movies. Get your stinking hands off me, you damn dirty human!

  • Just in time for the Tim Burton special. 🙂 Thanks for linking me in, Stu!
    What rocks can I throw at this movie that you haven’t already thrown? I wish I had something more insightful to say but I don’t. I’ve only seen in once, way back when in the theater, though I kind of want to watch it again for the comedy value.

    The ape makeup is so good it’s creepy.

  • There’s the kernel of a good film in here, and they obviously had some fantastic designs for it. Unfortunately Marky Mark does not carry the film, and I remember being utterly uninvested. The app makeup is fantastic but ruined when, for some reason, they decide to make the female ones look not realistically apelike at all. Helena Bonham Carter looks like she’s stepped out of the 70s POTA. So weird when the makeup on Paul Giamatti is enough to make you believe simians can talk. I wish there was something likeable in there, but beyond the design it’s flat.

    • MW was clearly the wrong choice but I’m just assuming the execs wanted a hot star and Burton had to acquiesce. Although why the hell he went ahead with the script is anyone’s guess. It’s almost as if Jon Peters was somehow involved in this one.

      • I had a pitch for the remake at the time. A virus is killing off all of mankind, but not affecting the animals. Those who aren’t affected are being put on spaceships called “Arks” to be taken to a nearby habitable planet to start the human race again.
        Taylor is the pilot of one of these Arks and is leaving Earth at the start with some VIP colonists. Only gets in trouble in space and crash lands back on Earth decades later when the apes have taken over.
        He has to somehow make contact with Second Earth so they can send a rescue mission to retrieve him and his passengers.
        They just gotta get past THE APES. Taylor also finds that some humans survived the virus and are being used as slaves. The virus has left the surviving humans mute.
        It was going to end with Taylor and his companions freeing the slaves and leading them to the ruins of the Statue Of Liberty. They have the final battle with the ape overlords there – as a huge spaceship arrives to rescue them.
        That was my take.

        • I’ve said this before…WHY AREN’T YOU A SCREENWRITER? My Lord, that’s a movie I would watch! Brilliant.

          • I guess I need to work on it. My idea kept the iconography and the same general story beats of the original POTA but still told a different tale.
            My version of Taylor was going to be a genetically engineered super soldier type character. I had an idea for a scene where he was captured and forced to fight in an arena with a crazed gorilla. He overpowers him but refuses to kill him – to prove to the other apes that humans aren’t savages.
            His objective in the story would be to get his human charges to safety – and then freeing the slave humans still trapped on Earth. So it would have had this kind of Spartacus element. Little bit of Moses to it.

          • That sounds like a FUN sci-fi movie with heart AND a message. Also, making Taylor a super-soldier opens the door for sequels where he could be challenged by other long-dormant reanimated soldiers.

          • As much as I’d like to accept the compliment wholeheartedly… when I had this idea – it was at the time when James Cameron was attached to a POTA remake. I think I was trying to preempt the film HE would’ve made…
            Think about it man, fighting the bad guys when a spaceship is one the way to get them? Dude – I SO ripped that off from Aliens! 😉
            In fact, I think there may have even been android characters in it!!!

          • It’s the simplicity that works so well, though. From your other movie ideas that I’ve heard, you have a good understanding of character and how to use the plot to help the audience CARE about that character. After that, it’s all gravy! Rip-off or not, if we care about Taylor then we are invested in whatever is going on with him.

          • I actually did a bit of reading on Cameron’s aborted Apes project and it wasn’t actually what I’d imagined. He wasn’t going to direct, he was going to produce – and I think (I could be wrong on this) he was setting it up for Peter Hyams to direct (Hyams and Cameron are good friends).
            It was going to be a vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnie would have played a guy who found himself on ape infested Earth but there was going to be a twist. The audience were going to find out that it wasn’t a remake, but a SEQUEL – and Charlton Heston was going to have an extended cameo as an aged Taylor toward the end of the movie.
            I’m presuming that it would’ve ignored the events of the second film where Taylor died… no explanation was given for how they’d get around that…
            Still. Interesting stuff.

          • VERY interesting. When was this? Post-T2, I’m guessing.

          • Post Titanic!
            The POTA remake was something that they were trying to get off the ground for a LONG time.
            I kind of wish Cameron did make it to be honest. Could’ve fit in his wheelhouse nicely.
            Arnold Schwarzenegger as the lead, and think about it: Other members of Cameron’s stock group of actors in ape makeup. We could’ve had Bill Paxton, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen – it could’ve been a very special thing.

          • That makes my stomach hurt, thinking about how brilliant it may have been! An ape-Sigourney-Weaver would’ve been AWESOME.

          • Check out my other reply to you – read that link!

          • Nice. Taylor as the harem leader. I love it.

          • Fits doesn’t it? That sounds like it could’ve been a really interesting movie. Shame we didn’t get to see it.

          • It’s a DAMN DIRTY SHAME! 😉
            Especially in light of what we received. Thank God for the reboot, which I LOVE.

          • Yeah – I’m digging the new ones. Going to the new one at the weekend. I’m excited about it.

          • I own part one, still need to see part 2 and I’ll get around to part 3 eventually.

          • Part 2 is VERY good. My reviews of those will be hitting at the weekend.

          • I’ll be aware and continue to try to see what bug is preventing me from seeing new content on your site. 🙂

          • Any time you have a problem let me know and I’ll link you up.

          • Gracias, hermano! 🙂

          • Bienvenida

          • That literally means welcome as in “Welcome to my home, please come in.”
            “De nada” means You’re welcome but literally translates as “Nothing to it, it was easy for me to serve you.”

    • Yeah, I can agree with all of this!

  • KGrimes

    Yeah, it’s all been said. Amazing makeup, shit film. The beginning of the end for Tim Burton.

    Then he has the balls to slap us in the face and fart down our throats with Ape Lincoln. What an insult.

  • The Magic Hunter

    I haven’t seen this one either, but I’m with KGrimes: I believe this is where Tim Burton’s career (and, who knows, maybe his marriage to HBC) began to go off the rails from respected kooky auteur-ville toward Hollywood hack crazy town.

    I never actually saw this one either, so all I’ll add is the fact that the Chinese just successfully teleported a photon of light from a mountain to a satellite, using quantum entanglement. [double checks whether this is on the “New York Times” front page: nope]

  • MegaDethlok

    I hate and I mean HATE how Burton shat on this franchise! “Apebrham Lincoln”? GFY!! Brong movie and I expected much better from Burton,
    Another reason for disliking this horrible reboot is because of that hack Marky Mark, who although was great in Boogie Nights and Departed, is a prick in real life and for blinding some Vietnamese guy during an unprovoked fight. Then poor janet jackson got the brunt of the jokes aimed toward her when Mark compared one of the female Apes to Janet’s likeness. Yee-ouch!

  • I_am_better

    If Alice in Wonderland didn’t exist, this would be Burtons absolute worst film. You kinda nailed it; the apes are the most interesting thing in this film, the Danny Elfman score is great – and I think some of the production design is really good. But the fucking directing, the script and the human characters are fucking abysmal