Wednesday, August 1, 2001 Volume 66, Issue 158


Stay away from this damn, dirty movie

'Planet of the Apes'
**1/2 (out of five stars)
Rated: PG-13
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Helena Bonham Carter, Tim Roth
20st Century Fox

By Ken Fountain
Daily Cougar Staff

Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes is one summer movie I really wanted to like, for this simple reason: The original 1968 film, which I saw on television as a kid, was the first
non-Disney movie that really blew me away.

Photo courteys of 20th Century Fox

Chimpanzee Gen. Thade (Tim Roth) leads his monkey minions into battle in Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes.

For some reason, the world created in the science fiction classic grabbed hold of my young imagination. It wasn't that I wanted to live in that "upside-down civilization" in which
simians were superior to humans. But something about the weirdness of it appealed to my impressionable sensibilities. And the final, unforgettable ending was my childhood
introduction to nihilism.

Which is why it's my sad duty to report that Burton's "reimagining" (not a remake, the 20th Century Fox publicity machine tells us) is woefully disappointing. Certainly, it has its
moments (with master weirdo Burton at the helm, how could it not?), but despite much more advanced special effects and make-up, it's a pale imitation of the original.

In the 1968 film, loosely based on a novel by French author Pierre Boulle (The Bridge Over the River Kwai), Charlton Heston played Taylor, the leader of a U.S. deep-space
mission that is shot across time and space and crash-lands on an unfamiliar world. The crew encounters a band of humans who have devolved to a near-animal state, and are then
shocked to find themselves hunted by gun-toting gorillas on horseback.

Taylor, the supremely competent pilot who left Earth because he despises humanity, finds himself caged, prodded and poked by simian scientists who see him only as a dumb
brute. Finally convincing them that he has reason, the misanthropic Taylor becomes the defender of mankind to a tribunal of orangutans.

In the new film, Heston is replaced by Mark Wahlberg as Capt. Leo Davis. Nothing against the former "Marky Mark," who's done some good acting in movies like Three Kings, but
he just doesn't have the stature, in size or persona, as Chuck "Moses meets the NRA" Heston. He's less a world-weary Superman than a scrappy Regular Joe.

But Wahlberg isn't the film's real problem. He does a credible job at what he's asked to do, which is not much more than run around a lot. Which brings us to the real problem: The
story is just another dumbed-down action adventure.

The original film, co-written by Twilight Zone creator/host Rod Serling, was a sly commentary on the social, racial and political turmoil of the 1960s. Some of the humor was a tad
too obvious, and Heston's performance tended towards the hammy side. But at its best, it was a great blend of action, wit and thoughtfulness.

Burton and his screenwriters have made some fundamental alterations to the original premise. Much has been made of the fact that in the new film, unlike in the original, the
planet's humans speak. That would be fine -- if any of them had something worth saying. Supermodel-turned-actress Estella Warren, who plays Wahlberg's jungle-girl love interest,
is just as pretty as the original's Linda Harrison, but has nothing important to do in the story.

As for the apes, Helena Bonham Carter is chimpanzee Ari, who sympathizes with humans and develops an unrequited crush on Davis. Carter is a fine actress, and she plays the
emotional scenes well, but her make-up isn't all that convincing.

On the other hand, Tim Roth as General Thade, the leader of the Ape Army, not only looks convincing, but is utterly menacing as a Napoleon-like chimp who protects his massive
ego by staging a genocidal war against the humans.

After a well-staged battle scene, with the ape infantry rushing forward on all four limbs, the film veers toward a double-whammy surprise ending that tries to top the first film's
unforgettable last scene. Unfortunately, it comes across as a not-very-convincing gimmick. It's rather obviously the set-up for a sequel (there were four sequels to the original film,
plus a prime-time television show and a cartoon series). Maybe next time, they'll get it right.

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