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PLANET OF THE APES

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Clarke Duncan, Estella Warren, Paul Giamatti
Director: Tim Burton
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1 Surround, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 124 Minutes
Release Date: November 20, 2001

“Damn them!”

“I will stop him, father.”

“DAMN THEM ALL TO HELL!!”

Film ***1/2

Our generation has had it’s share of remakes of popular films, from everything to the upcoming star filled Ocean’s Eleven to the dreadful shot by shot remake of Psycho. But few such remakes can master the level of wonder that visionary genius Tim Burton has applied to his re-imagining of Planet of the Apes. The original Planet was perhaps the most popular science fiction franchise prior to Star Wars, and for a movie made in the late 60s, it took special make up effects to a whole new level, and Burton has evolved on that notion, creating an entire atmosphere of savage apes that look real in every essence of the word. It’s hard to believe for a second that there are actually human actors underneath the make up.  All credit should go to Burton. I strongly feel that no other director could have pulled off what he did.

Replacing Charlton Heston, who pops up in an unexpected part in this version, is Mark Wahlberg as Capt. Leo Davidson. While pursuing a space chimp who has abandoned his space station, Leo gets trapped in a vortex-like structure, and immediately crash lands on a planet that is run by vicious apes who capture humans who are then subjected to slave labor for life. The apes are led by the bloodthirsty, human despising General Thade, played with vicious brilliance by Tim Roth who really deserves some Oscar attention for his work here. Other key ape characters are Thade’s second in command, Attar (Michael Clarke Duncan), slave trader Limbo (a perfectly cast Paul Giamatti), and military executive Krull (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa).

The only outcast of the ape race is that of Ari (Helena Bonham Carter), daughter of a senator, who is in favor of learning from the humans instead of committing torture.  She carries one of the movie’s best lines when replying to a comment about humans possibly carrying diseases, “How would we know, when the army burns the bodies before they’re examined?” Ari senses something different in Leo, and once he and a few other humans escape from captivity, she, along with two other apes against their will, form an army of their own to help execute a backlash against Thade and his army.

Like all Tim Burton movies, the star of this movie is the look. Burton is one director who always promises a treat for the eyes, as perfectly demonstrated in Batman, Edward Scissorhands, and Sleepy Hollow. For Planet of the Apes, Burton outdoes himself with glorious visuals. He, along with production designer Rick Henrichs (Sleepy Hollow), has given the apes an atmosphere that has a look any movie lover would be astounded by. Another important aspect to credit immensely is the make up by the renowned, Oscar winning Rick Baker, who outdoes himself as well with what must have been the most time consuming, patience consuming make up work anyone had to perform. And as always, whenever Tim Burton is directing a movie, Danny Elfman will be there to give it a pulse pounding score, which he does here once again.

One kick I always get out of the movie on every viewing is the surprise ending, which many were either puzzled or disappointed by. I, on the other hand, always get a jolt out of it, and I find it to be wonderfully executed. I won’t spoil any details except to say that a sequel will definitely be in the works, and if Burton is at the helm, I can’t wait to see it!

Video ****

What a year this has been for Fox. In the few weeks since they made a stellar disc for Star Wars Episode I, they have fashioned together what is not only one of the greatest looking discs ever, but one of this year’s most outstanding looking DVDs you will find on the market. Right from frame one in outer space, the picture quality explodes with rich crispness and vibrant colorization. Dark settings and bright settings alike are wonderfully displayed in outstanding digital form. It’s a remarkable looking disc, in addition to being just about what one would expect a Tim Burton movie to look like on DVD. 

Audio ****

Fox’s 5.1 audio ranks as one of the most astounding audio tracks I’ve ever heard on any movie, and is thus far my choice for top audio transfer of 2001. Every single sound in the movie, from Danny Elfman’s score, to distinct background noises, to explosions seems to be picked up in the clearest shape and form. In numerous scenes, apes leap from area to area, which alone provides superb sound quality. I can’t rave about this audio transfer enough except to say that anyone who buys this disc will be impressed with the knockout quality.

Features ****

To perfectly define it, Fox has gone ape with these extras, fashioning up a loaded two disc set loaded with the longest list of extras to make anyone go ape wild.

Starting off on disc 1, we have an enhanced viewing mode that includes behind the scenes snippets of specific scenes as the movie is playing. That alone is a treat, in this option that seems to rival the enhanced viewing feature that New Line carries in its Infinifilm series. Also included are two audio commentaries, one by Tim Burton, and the other, an isolated score commentary by Danny Elfman.

On disc 2, there seven individual featurettes, which make up about an hour and forty five minutes alone, and that’s just on the making of the film! Also featured are five extended scenes, a multi-angle scene analysis, a concept art gallery, a music video for Paul Oakenfeld’s remix of “Rule the Planet”, a trailers and television spots gallery, and DVD-Rom material.

Also included, in some if not all, is a Limited Edition Planet of the Apes CD-Rom, which features more behind the scenes footage and interviews.

Summary:

Planet of the Apes is yet another visual feast from one of the greatest visually gifted directors of our time, Tim Burton, and the DVD truly does evolve the movie into an even greater piece of entertainment.