PLANET OF THE APES
Davies is curiously drawn to this ape fantasy.
Planet Of The Apes
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Clarke
Duncan, Kris Kristofferson, Estella Warren, Paul Giamatti.
Director: Tim Burton.
Producer: Richard Zanuck.
Make-up: Rick Baker.
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox.
Running Time: 135 mins. approx.
When I first heard that Tim Burton was to helm the new Planet Of The Apes
movie I was apprehensive. My initial reaction was, why him?
Dont get me wrong, with the possible exception of the fragmented
Mars Attacks, Im a fan of his work, but as someone with fond memories
of the original Apes film, I was more than a little concerned over what
Mr. Dark-and-Edgy would do in re-working such a tested classic.
As it turns out I was both right and wrong to be worried.
Burtons re-imagining, as he is calling it is neither
a sequel to nor a remake of the 1968 original, and this is made clear
in almost every frame of the film. Stylistically, especially in regard
to the visuals, the two are completely different animals, but the point
at which they crucially differ is in the structure of the higher narrative.
While it essentially revolves around the same premise as its predecessor
(and the original novel by Pierre Boulle), that of a lone human astronaut
who finds himself on a world where humans are slaves and apes have evolved
into the dominant species, the new version updates the attitudes of the
protagonist and the themes which shape the ape civilisation. By escaping
the trappings of what has gone before Burton, with his team of writers
and artists, has succeeded in creating a new and separate planet
of the apes.
One of the biggest differences on this new Planet is that the native humans
can talk and have their own tribal society that exists outside the apes
cities. They are not the wild, brutal savages from the original Planet
Of The Apes, but rather second class citizens to be used by the apes as
slaves. Where Charlton Hestons 'Taylor' found himself forced to
consider man as an animal (ultimately one capable of destroying civilisation
as we know it) Mark Wahlbergs Leo Davidson finds himself playing
a reversed role in an inverted comment on human oppression; something
that still concerns us today.
For anyone who knows Burtons directorial style of navigating plot
via themes it will be clear why this sort of emphasis is important, and
will recognise it in this re-imagining if they look hard enough
(the human/slave allegory is one of many). However, too many of these
allegorical references suffer from the brutal blockbuster treatment this
film has received, being reduced to the barest word or the briefest shot
(for example, the importance of the ape religion would be lost if it wasnt
for the devoutness of Michael Clarke Duncans Attar). Another victim
sacrificed to increase the action content seems to have been essential
characterisation, with principal players such as Ari (Helena Bonham Carter),
Thade (Tim Roth) and Attar being presented without any history to them
and worse, having to express their relationships in direct, unnatural
sentences. Similarly there is little to endear us to our hero,
Leo Davidson, other than his care for his own chimp partner, Pericles,
and the almost too subtle suggestion that he more closely identifies with
Helena Bonham Carters human sympathising chimpanzee than he does
with the human slaves.
These sacrifices, however, have not been made for nothing. In fact, considering
the budget and release date it actually seems oddly appropriate to throw
every spare second into action (even if it does make certain other aspects
feel forced). The trick, of course, is to make the action propel the story
forwards and this is where Burtons vision really pays off. With
everything else boiled down to a bare minimum there are no extraneous
scenes and everything included initiates some action or otherwise reacts
to it. From the opening scenes aboard the Oberon, through Leos crash
and capture, to the escape and final Kurosawa-esque confrontation, every
scenes pushes Leo and the plot forward, building momentum as it goes.
It is so tightly controlled that, with the exception of the arrival in
the ape city, the camera doesnt even get to linger long enough to
admire the sets or costumes (which are, by the way, fantastic), unless
it serves to add a degree of tension to the scene. A clever side effect
of this is that, although it can only be about ten or fifteen minutes
at the most before the audience gets to see their first evolved ape, it
feels closer to the forty minutes it took Charlton Heston to meet his.
The only technical problem with the film is that most of the tension is
lost on those people already familiar with the original as we all know
that there has to be a twist at the end.
If the new Planet Of The Apes fails to deliver in any way it is because,
as a big budget, commercial production, it cannot afford to indulge itself
or its audience in the finer points of what it might mean to have
apes ruling the planet. If it succeeds it is for exactly the same reasons.
Apes, chimpanzees in particular, are very direct creatures who take action
rather than making statements. An ape would make a film like this.
A thorough and potent re-inventing of a sci-fi classic that adds an extra
layer of realism to the Apes themselves and updates the franchise for
a new generation. Good solid entertainment with a neat twist.
Sometime in the future mankind has an established presence in space.
When the United States Air Force space station Oberon encounters
a powerful storm in space they send trained chimp Pericles out to
investigate, but when he disappears his human counterpart, Cpt.
Leo Davidson disregards his orders and blasts off to save him. Caught
up in the storm Davidsons ship seems to travel through time
and gets thrown out at an apparently much later date, it then crash-lands
on what looks to be an alien world leaving Leo stranded. Before
he can get his bearings he is then captured, along with other humans,
by militant apes who sell him into slavery and thereby bring him
to the attention of human-rights activist, Ari. Impressed by Leo
she buys him, allowing him and others to escape. She then joins
him on his quest into the Forbidden Zone where the truth behind
the evolved apes is buried and where the evil general Thade plans
to kill them all.
< About the Author
< Reply to this Article