Planet of the Apes
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This movie is almost worth watching just for how it looks, the cool way the apes move and for Tim Roth who gives an amazing performance as an ape. But with all the millions of dollars they spent on this movie, couldn't they have spent a few dollars on a script! They made the decision that they were not just going to do a remake of the original Planet of the Apes. This was a mistake since the original film besides being a classic, has a much better and coherent story that even includes some character development. The new version has none of that. And none of the movie makes the slightest bit of sense. It is capped off by an ending, although strangely like the ending of the original book, The Monkey Planet, that sets a new level of senselessness that may never be equalled. The new Planet of the Apes does not pause for us to get to know any characters. Imagine if all the scenes that the director, Tim Burton, would call slow parts of the original movie were deleted and only the action scenes remain and you'll have an idea of what the new movie is like. Maybe it's for the best so you don't have time to think about how little sense it all makes. Ok, I'll stop ranting. The new Planet of the Apes begins with our intrepid astronaut (Mark Wahlberg) taking part in a bizarre project to train chimps to fly space capsules. Even though this film is set about 20 years in the future, they have decided than rather explore space by remote control with computers as we have been doing for 30 years, it is better to send a chimp to work the controls as was done in the 1950's. This is all to introduce us to apes so that we can be astounded when everything is turned upside down later in the movie. But since we all know what's going to happen, it is really pointless. Soon in the great Star Trek tradition, Wahlberg steals a shuttlecraft and heads off to save his favorite chimp who is lost in an Ion storm (also a Star Trek tradition). The shuttlecraft is soon thrown through space and time and Walhberg crash lands on a mysterious planet. Like I said before, all the slow parts have been removed so there is little suspense and within about 2 minutes, he is being chased by a bunch of apes engaged in the slave trade lead by an Orangutan (Paul Giamatti). Wahlberg falls in with a group of hapless humans lead by a grungy Kris Kristofferson. They are captured and taken back to the ape city. Soon, they have been freed by the ape equivalent of Greenpeace including Helena Bonham Carter. Next, we get a Keystone Cops-type chase scene as they escape the city by running through the living rooms of various ape houses. We are introduced to the evil bad guy (Tim Roth) who leads the armed forces along with a big Gorilla (Michael Clarke Duncan). They chase off after our heroes now minus Kristofferson who loses his head after about 5 minutes of screen time. He must be hurting for parts these days. Still with the group is Kristofferson's winsome daughter (Estella Warren). She is meant to be the love interest for Wahlberg but it never really develops, and Warren only has about 3 lines of dialog in the whole film. What develops is a weird inter-species love triangle involving Warren, Wahlberg and Carter. There's a whole lot more romantic tension between Walhberg and Carter than with Warren. It's all in the Commander Riker tradition of jumping on women of any species! Anyway, Wahlberg and friends head off into the desert with Roth in hot pursuit to where, supposedly, it all began for the apes. When they get there, it's Sleeper all over again just like we saw earlier this summer with A.I. They find an old crashed spaceship and low and behold, Wahlberg hits a button and it starts! But by this time, who cares. As I mentioned at the beginning, the only redeeming feature of this movie, is the realistic way the apes are portrayed and Tim Roth. Roth is amazing. His performance deserves an Oscar even though he is completely unrecognizable in his makeup. His portrayal of the evil ape leader has to be seen. Everyone else pales by comparison. Wahlberg is stolid as the astronaut showing none of emotion of Charlton Heston. Just to remind us, Heston makes a cameo as Roth's dying father and manages to chew the scenery with relish. I kept expecting him to say, ``Soylent Green is people!" Carter is also quite good but doesn't seem as ape-like as Roth. Clarke does well as the loyal sidekick to Roth. He was, of course, the big black guy on death row in a southern prison in The Green Mile. I'm not sure what comment Tim Burton was trying to make about race relations when he has Clarke say to one of his captives, "Get your stinking human hands off me." Paul Giamatti does a good turn as the slave trader. He is best known as one of the GI's in Saving Private Ryan and for being the son of former Baseball Commissioner Bart Giamatti. The music is quite good, done as usual by Danny Elfman. But I've come to believe that Tim Burton is all style and no substance. His movies look great but there's really nothing there. Go see the new version for Tim Roth's performance but also rent the 1968 original. It still stands up as a great movie.