Planet of the Apes (PG-13) ★★★½

Review Date: August 10th, 2001

Planet of the Apes is Tim Burton's fresh ''re-imagining'' of the 1968 time-honored cult classic that while new, stirs haunting echoes of the original. The apes are fierce and ferocious, and the humans face extinction.


Captain Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg) ignores his commander's orders and leaves his space station in an exploration vehicle to find his missing chimp pilot protégé, Pericles. Davidson ends up crash-landing on a distant planet, in a distant future. On this planet, however, it's simians who have the power and Davidson is quickly rounded up along with other humans for slave work in Ape City. Worse, ape General Thade (Tim Roth) is trying to convince the senate that humans are dangerous vermin that must be exterminated by any means necessary. When Leo escapes with an important senator's human-sympathizing daughter, Ari (Helena Bonham Carter), Thade is given all the ammunition he needs to unleash his entire army against the human and ape rebels. It's the twist at the end, though, that will have everyone talking.


The wonderfully talented Tim Roth and the exquisite Helena Bonham Carter carry the film easily and ably. Roth is able to deliver a masterful, disturbing performance as the evil General Thade. Roth's unrestrained rage and unmitigated cruelty devour the screen. Bonham Carter gives an incredibly deft performance as Ari, one of the few ape proponents of human rights. Despite heavy makeup and ape costume, Bonham Carter's thoughts and expressions shine through. The supporting actors' performances are equally impressive. Paul Giamatti's orangutan Limbo is a wonderfully amoral human slave trader who cares only about turning a profit. Attar (Michael Clarke Duncan) is Thade's unquestioning gorilla aide and convincingly the fiercest warrior in the army. As the stranded astronaut looking for home, Wahlberg isn't asked to do too much, and Estella Warren as the sexy human who likes him isn't asked to do anything other than pout.


Tim Burton has created yet another cinematic masterpiece. Visually this movie is beyond compare, as the sets are simply magnificent--one can feel the inspiration Burton drew from his days as an animator. The humans acting as apes (whose look is the genius of makeup guru Rick Baker) were coached to be as apelike as possible and allowed to explore their inner primate. Roth's innately evil character is counter-balanced by the subtle restraints Burton imposes, and the timing of the movie is superb. A couple lines of dialogue clank, but the only other complaint I have is that I wish the movie had been longer to allow a few more characters to be fully developed.

Bottom Line:

Go see it! Go see it now! This is the most fun I've had at a movie all summer, and I can't wait to go back and see it again.