Planet of the Apes (2001)

All right, so it isn't "horror," but I figure this is where most of us are going to look first--I think that the entire PLANET OF THE APES phenomena has enough relevance to everyone on this board to merit a little discussion here.

I was really looking forward to this one--since they didn't play stupid "hide and seek" games with the ape creations in the publicity, I knew that the look and atmosphere of the film would be simply fantastic. And visually, Tim Burton has done it again--there's enough to LOOK at to merit a recommendation for those who want above all else to see the techniques that make it all happen. 

You also know that I've never automatically had it in for remakes--just ask me about THE MUMMY, HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL and MIGHTY JOE YOUNG if you think otherwise.

But let's make it plain and simple--there's something about the original PLANET OF THE APES that makes it the better film about ten times over. It's always going to be the one with the staying power, and it's always going to be the one that we'll have the fondest memories of. 

Characters? Tim Roth stands out in the new movie as General Thade--his performance is sufficiently possessed (and the effects used to enhance it so seamlessly integrated) that you not only believe in him as a character, you damn well believe in him as an APE! By comparison, Helena Bonham Carter, though a fine actress, still looks like a human actress in ape makeup--and hell if I can even remember her character name--or those of just about anyone else. One doesn't forget Taylor, Cornelius, Zira or Dr. Zaius--and I don't just mean those who've seen the first film a hundred times, either. Those were memorable CHARACTERS, not merely great effects.

To my horror, the new APES (it's certainly not a remake of the familiar story, so it's not predictable in that sense) actually bored me at times. I could not believe that we were seeing yet another "slow buildup to the battle followed by... the battle itself" series of events. Again, different story--but remember how well the first one worked even though the "action" as such was confined to the middle of the movie? Nobody got bored towards the end because they were caught up in what the characters were DOING, and what they were talking ABOUT. Why is a massive simian army (the kind they couldn't do in the late 60s) any different from a tribe of jackal warriors in THE MUMMY RETURNS?

In such a day and age where video distributors happily plaster the image of the Statue of Liberty on the box art for the original film, it almost seems pointless to try to come up with a twist ending--in advance, everyone will be thinking "Okay, here it comes!" Still, it's amusingly handled and takes a page from the Pierre Boulle novel that was never explored in the first film. Homework was done, no question about it. But the rich mine of social, political, religious and scientific satire available in the APES mythos is trotted out as a series of catchphrases and quick conversations here, as it's apparently far more important to overwhelm today's viewers with the visuals. Remember how long the first film kept your attention with barren landscapes before anything actually HAPPENED? Notice how I keep going on and on about the first film no matter how hard I try to talk about the new one?

The new PLANET OF THE APES demands to be SEEN at least once. But to the critics who claim that it surpasses its inspiration, I can only say... I envy you your youth.

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