Press "Enter" to skip to content

Review: The Planet of the Apes (2001)

The Planet of the Apes (2001)

Directed by: Tim Burton

Premise: A remake of the 1968 film. An astronaut travels through a wormhole and lands on a planet on which humans are dominated by apes.

What Works: The 2001 version of Planet of the Apes is a Tim Burton film and the picture shows many of the traits of Burton’s work. This film has some very striking imagery and the makeup work for the apes is some of the most impressive prosthetic work ever done. A couple of the supporting ape characters are fun to watch, such as Helena Bonham Carter as a human sympathizer and Paul Giamatti as a slave trader. Bonham Carter combines human and ape traits better than any other actor in the film and Giamatti provides some very funny comic relief.

What Doesn’t: The problems with Tim Burton’s version of Planet of the Apes are many but the main problem is that it takes a mythology rich with history, symbolism, and potential and goes no farther than the lowest common denominator. As a director, Burton is an auteur who has finagled his own place in Hollywood, often making large productions for Hollywood studios while maintaining his own aesthetic sensibilities. When he has done this well, as in Batman, Beetlejuice, and Edward Scissorhands, the results have combined Burton’s unique visual style with populist entertainment and many of his films include effective stories and characters with significant psychological depth. But Burton is not a political filmmaker. His movies are insulated, like the sketchpad of a daydreamer, and do not figure in broader considerations or implications. It is no surprise then that Burton’s Planet of the Apes an action movie and little else. In a way, Burton’s 2001 Apes film foreshadowed the horror remakes that Hollywood churned out throughout the decade, such as the 2004 version of Dawn of the Dead or the 2010 edition of A Nightmare on Elm Street. On the most superficial level, the remake resembles the original and replicates its setting, characters, and scenarios but it has no understanding for what those elements mean. The thematic weakness of the 2001 version of Planet of the Apes might be passable is the film were a rip-roaring good time, but it isn’t even a very good action picture. The script is a mess, with underdeveloped subplots introduced and later dropped when they get in the way of the action and the ending is ludicrous. There are actors in the film but no characters; every one of the leads—human and ape—are flat and uninteresting. Mark Wahlberg is miscast as the lead astronaut and Tim Roth overplays his role as an ape general. Because it has no foundation in story or character, the action scenes of the 2001 Planet of the Apes film are robbed of any dramatic weight; when the final battle finally arrives it is unclear who is fighting or what they are fighting for. And even as a collection of stunt and special effects, the action scenes of the remake are unimpressive. The fights are mired by overdone and overused wirework that snaps the viewer out of the picture and much of the combat is little more than actors in ape suits punching other actors in loin cloths.  

DVD extras: The two disc edition includes commentary tracks, enhanced viewing mode, featurettes, extended scenes, trailers, TV spots, image galleries, and DVD-ROM features.

Bottom Line: The 2001 remake of The Planet of the Apes is a bad film. It has some great looking sets and makeups and if it at least provided compelling characters and a solid story it might be salvageable. But the film is all style and no substance.

Episode: #352 (August 14, 2011)