Burton’s Blunder: Planet of the Apes

This post is perhaps a decade too late, but this site did not exist ten years ago, and so we had no forum to express our disgust.  Now, thanks to the wonderful world of internet publishing, we bring to you a long-overdue rant on Tim Burton’s lobotomy of a motion picture, 2001’s Planet of the Apes.

But wait, you might say, “Wasn’t the film panned by critics upon its release, and isn’t any further criticism piling it on?”  To you I say, “Shut up.  We’re doin’ this thing.”

In the first place, this film was a great disappointment to any fans of Tim Burton’s previous work.  Where are the talking chairs, the dudes with cutting implements for hands, the ghosts with poor teeth, the be-costumed misanthropes?  Where are the dark humor, the stark, imagined universes?  Burton’s Ape characters are so cardboard and his Planet so bereft of color, both literal and figurative, that one wonders if Burton was awake during the filming of this debacle.  If denofgeek is to be trusted, the project, rejected while in development by all sane directors for over a decade, “caught the attention of Burton”– but one wonders what exactly he saw.  And Burton cannot redeem himself by distancing himself from the film after he made it. You cannot take a dump on someone’s couch and then denounce the turd.

The second and biggest detriment of this film is the fact that it is NOT a remake of the original.  Aside from the fact that a guy goes through time to a planet ruled by apes, there is little in the 2001 version that resembles the 1968 masterpiece of camp and loosely-veiled political satire.  Indeed in the 2001 version, there is nothing at all at stake.  Who cares if Mark Wahlberg makes it off this planet?  Who cares about this human race, too?  The human beings can clearly talk and think as adeptly as the apes, so why are they the Planet’s bitches?  Yeah, these apes can leap about and have superior strength (which is, I agree with denofgeek, the best part of the film), but these human beings are pitiful simply because they are pitiful.  There seems to be no explanation of how they came to be subjected.  Yes, we get a bit at the end about how the one ape attacked the people in the space craft, but if some survived, and with technologies, why did they become dull savages?  In the first film, the humans are subjected because they have devolved as a result of their own vices, and so, they are relatively unintelligent and base.  Here, the apes just seem to hunt human beings for sport and to acquire pets and slaves.  The apes are arbitrarily evil and the people inexplicably weak.

Squeeze harder, please.

Also, the first film was about Col. Taylor discovering what this new world was, and about the apes (especially Zira and Cornelius) discovering the potential of human beings.  Here, the film is relegated to a simple prison break plot, followed by a clunky and not-at-all-defined “romantic” triangle with Wahlberg, Bonham Carter and Warren, followed by a truncated, low-rent Braveheart battle sequence.  Also, the writers, as if sensing that there was nothing redeemable about the script, inserted into the action Paul Giamatti as Limbo, the stock and hackneyed comic relief character that populates all films and TV shows that are missing true substance.  Belated newsflash, William Broyles Jr. et al: the audience is in limbo for the entire length of the film, waiting for something interesting to happen.  Alas, we wait, and cringe, and wait, but like a woman pining for Elton John, we get no satisfaction.

No disrespect, Rocket Man.

Finally, though I could add many additional items to this list, the ending of Burton’s film is so bad and contrived as to be surprising, even given its context.  The 1968 version does have the twist ending, and it might stretch the bounds of believability a bit.  However, in the newer version, when Wahlberg again crashes his sperm plane, this time right onto the steps of the Lincoln Memorial (did he sleep through the day they covered landings at flight school?  The damned ape landed his craft no prob), I felt myself brace for some kind of train-wreck ending.  And, when the statue of Lincoln is shown from behind, one knows that a slow reveal of the face will yield some sort of hack trope.  And sure enough, there, instead of Lincoln is Thade, the ape general from the Planet… oooh!  They’ll have to make another one to explain this craaaaazy twist, right?  Thank God, no.  Though Burton’s film made over $300 million worldwide (?) and though Fox pushed for a sequel, Burton backed off, and the world, already waaay back, stayed there.

I think a lot of people have given Burton a pass for this film, reverting to the old maxim that every director makes one piece of crap in his or her career.  We here at eatpreyhate, however, are not in the business of handing out passes.  We are not hall monitors.  We calls ’em like we sees ’em, and we sees this film as it is: a pile of steaming, quasi-“remake” garbage that deserves our disdain.



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