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PLANET OF THE APES

SYNOPSIS:
In the year 2029, interstellar reconnaissance missions are relegated to chimpanzee pilots from the space station Oberon in deep space. On one such mission, a chimp loses communication and vanishes from the radar. Astronaut Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg) launches a rescue mission and, following a malfunction, lands on a jungle-like planet not unlike the earth. To Leo’s astonishment, English-speaking apes, led by General Thade (Tim Roth), and feral humans inhabit the planet. Following his capture by the apes and subsequent escape, Leo assembles a small band of defiant humans led by the noble Karubi (Kris Kristofferson) and empathetic apes like Ari (Helena Bonham Carter), in an attempt to re-establish contact with Oberon, but his focus changes following a surprising discovery. Armed with this new information, Leo leads a rebellion against an overpowering ape force - boasting the fiercest warrior on the planet, Attar (Michael Clarke Duncan) - that will result in freedom or complete annihilation.

A script not worthy of Tim Burton and a scenario mangled by a mannered and silly reworking of the novel turn this much anticipated remake . . .er, re-interpretation . . . into a soggy and often boring affair. Mark Wahlberg stands out with a well balanced performance and a realistically constructed character, but apeing apes who have full blown human sensibilities, manners and mores – other than the snorting and roaring – just doesn’t work on this occasion. The variety of ape faces is all very well, but most of them end up looking like they’re half morphed between monkeys and men. Worse still is the bad hair that many sport (which even gets a reference in the dialogue) with its humanistic characteristics. (Mind you, the original also has a total bad hair affliction.) The basic story is basic indeed: it’s built on the conflicting tribes model; metaphors for human intolerance don’t work so well in this setting, nor do the half baked ideas that pass for the ape culture. The pivotal concept of Leo being whisked through a time gate is tired and banal, because it is not backed by the sense of despair that drove the original: namely, that men are stupider than apes when it comes to managing their tribal affairs, hence the final, apocalyptic scene on the abandoned ruins of the Statue of Liberty in the 1968 film. That has been discarded for something less than ordinary by way of story: it’s now simply about violent supremacy and time warp. Helena Bonham Carter’s Ari and Tom Roth’s General Thade are woefully hammy and Michael Clarke Duncan is made to be laughably melodramatic, too. OK, the production values and make up FX are high, the music is great, but there is little to take our breath away dramatically. Rue the planet.
Andrew L. Urban

Embellished strongly with Tim Burton's distinctive stamp, Planet of the Apes is an extravagant fable, replete with superb production design, extraordinary make up and imaginative effects. Highly anticipated, the film is likely to disappoint some who hoped and expected more than just a big budget special effects epic. The big let down is the script that relies on trite easy laughs, instead of powerful parables that could impact as strongly as those in Animal Farm. But having said that, I must admit I really enjoyed the ambience of the film – that shadowy bizzare Burton-world he creates so well. That, coupled with Danny Elfman's enthralling soundtrack (reminiscent at times of Jerry Goldsmith's original) plus Rick Baker's extraordinary make up are essentially the stars of the film. Good casting with Mark Wahlberg as an effective hero, Tim Roth marvellous as tyrannical Thade, and Helene Bonham Carter fascinating as Ari, the chimp with human sensitivities. Bonham Carter's make-up and body language effect a character so intensely complex that we are enthralled and repelled. At first glance, Ari has a slight semblance to Michael Jackson, and I swear there was one ape that reminded me very much of someone I know well. A fantastic mythical adventure based on Pierre Boulle's classic novel, Burton never intended his film to be a remake or sequel to the 1968 film starring Charlton Heston, but was 'intrigued by the idea of revisiting that world'. It's an apt and nice touch for Heston to appear in an uncredited cameo, but it may well remind us all of that powerful moment in the original film, when Heston is caught in the net and spits his retort “Get your stinking paws off me you damned dirty ape”, the first words the apes have heard him utter. His features may not be clearly recognisable under the ape make up, but the distinguishing voice is unmistakable. Planet of the Apes is a haunting, almost claustrophobic experience that envelopes us into another world, at the end of which it is almost a relief to walk out of the cinema into the sunshine. Don't compare this with the original script driven version; this is Burton's bizarre planet – journey there for what it offers.
Louise Keller

Why did they bother? Yet another classic original remains unsurpassed by a barely adequate remake. The main differences between this and the 1968 version are boring computer generated effects and lighting so dark you never get any sense of the ape world. Remember Charlton Heston being herded around ape metropolis in broad daylight and the sense of wonder as we journeyed into this bizarre inverted reality? Here it's so gloomy you can barely see what's going on, let alone get a feel for what kind of world these apes have built. The Tim Burton of Mars Attacks or Pee Wee's Big Adventure might have injected energy into proceedings. Unfortunately the Tim Burton of Batman and Sleepy Hollow is at work here, applying an entirely inappropriate gothic approach to what should be a colourful adventure fantasy. Philip Noyce was once associated with this project - pity he didn't end up at the helm. What we're left with is dank, musty-looking and not terribly interesting until the final half hour when the action moves into wide open spaces but by then the damage is done. Sure, it's fun for those who remember the 1968 favourite to hear an ape say "take your stinking hands off me you goddam dirty human" and to witness an uncredited Charlton Heston in ape make-up but there's not much here to inspire excitement and awe. Minor plusses include Rick Baker's amazing make-up and the amusing romantic rivalry of chimpanzee Bonham Carter and human Estella Warren (an Olympic synchronised swimming bronze medallist!) for Wahlberg's affections. Major blunders include cheap and unfunny comic relief from Paul Giametti and an ending that anticipates a franchise that's hard to see happening.
Richard Kuipers



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 2
Mixed: 1

INTERVIEW with Mark Wahlberg

VIDEO FEATURE with Andrew L. Urban

FEATURE TRAILER

PLANET OF THE APES (M15+)
(US)

CAST: Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Clarke Duncan, Kris Kristofferson

DIRECTOR: Tim Burton

PRODUCER: Richard D. Zanuck

SCRIPT: William Broyles Jr., Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal (screenplay), Pierre Boulle (novel)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Philippe Rousselot

EDITOR: Chris Lebenzon

MUSIC: Danny Elfman

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Rick Heinrichs

RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE DATE: August 9, 2001

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Home Entertainment

VIDEO RELEASE: January 16, 2002

UPCOMING EVENT
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre, Parramatta, Sydney.

Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.







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