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Planet of the Apes

Looks better than the usual Hollywood makeover

Back in the day, when I first saw the original <i>Planet of the Apes</i> movies, I was scared. I used to watch the television series too and I was even more scared. Sure, I was a wide-eyed little kid, but still, something about the apes was just so. . . so. . . eerie. Plus, they were really mean. I watched the new Tim Burton take on the classic cult film with regressive horror. The apes were still frightening and fierce. But with the help of technology, bigger budgets and make-up/costume feats, they were ten-times more believable and spooky.

Quirky director Burton doesn't do a re-make per say, as much as an interpretation of the original. Mark Wahlberg plays Leo Davidson, a brash officer in the US Air Force. The time is 2029 and we are using genetically enhanced smart-chimps to do most of our space-exploration. When Davidson loses his chimp in an electro-magnetic storm, he goes after him and finds himself on a strange planet ruled by snotty apes who consider humans to be dumb, lice-infested buffoons.

The first scene on the planet is an outstanding and dark introduction to this world. Davidson has just crashed and suddenly finds himself being chased down by mysterious beasts. The music, lighting, editing and directing all contribute to this
breathtaking action sequence, which defines the whole movie to follow. One of the best and craziest characters is General Thade, played superbly by Tim Roth. He is an uber-male gorilla who can barely conceal his ape testosterone. This angry ape has a HUGE chip on his hairy shoulder and is "the bad guy". There's also a bizarre love triangle that develops between Davidson, a dumb human blonde Daena (Estella Warren) and an intelligent, sympathetic ape named Ari (played by the beautiful Helena Bonham Carter). The scenes with these three can be misconstrued as cheesy and over-the-top, but anyone who has seen a Tim Burton movie will understand that this is just his strange, campy sense of humor. For more obvious comedy relief, there's the groveling slave trader Limbo (Paul Giamatti), whose antics get old but not tiresome.

Screenwriters William Broyles Jr., Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal seem to take a "what goes around, comes around" approach to the story (humans treat animals like crap, then animals treat humans like crap), and there is a good deal of animal rights as well as racism-is- bad rhetoric. This is definitely the 2001 PC- version. The apes are brought to life and their make-up is phenomenal; at times you feel as if you are actually watching primates walk, talk, and beat the hell out of people. Although Mark ('Marky Mark') Wahlberg proved his acting skills in <i>Boogie Nights</i>, let's face it, he's no Charleton Heston. He spouts horribly trite lines like "Never send a monkey to do a man's job" throughout the film. It's best when he keeps his mouth shut and his ass tight.

Those die-hard fans of the classic <i>Planet of the Apes</i> expecting an exact remake might be disappointed. But never fear, Burton adds a scene that makes for, arguably, the best moment in the film: General Thade's father is on his death bed and gasps for air to utter his last words. He works up the gusto and then passionately yells, "Damn Them! Damn them all!" in full Heston character. It is a direct reference to the end of the first movie. Now, I don't want to give away anything here, so I'll I just give you a nebulous hint -- watch the credits to see who played this character.

Planet of the Apes takes you for a thrilling ride, but leaves you very confused. The ending is... well... see for yourself. All I have to say is: "Can anyone say sequel?"

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Planet of the Apes
rated PG-13
2 hours

Mark Wahlberg
Tim Roth
Helena Bonham Carter
Estella Warren
Michael Clarke Duncan

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