Published Aug 01, 2001Pearl Harbor turned out to be dead in the water. A.I. proved more Kubrick huh? than Spielberg box office gold. With only Shrek's somewhat juvenile green ogre fart jokes to contend with, this summer may have finally found its action smash in Tim Burton's revisioned Planet of the Apes. And the key to the success of this much-hyped return of those "damn dirty apes" is owed to two people: director Burton, who once again proves he can put his own mark on much travelled material (Batman, Sleepy Hollow) and make-up genius Rick Baker, who gives these apes not only faces that allow the actors to move, but also distinct, and distinctly menacing, personalities. The premise remains familiar: an astronaut (Mark Wahlberg, who has the physique for the loincloth, but remains covered) lands on a planet where humans are subservient to apes in a society turned upside-down. This time out, a lush, green ape city is the site of this primitive, yet advanced culture where human slaves serve their simian masters. Wahlberg quickly encounters an ape "human rights" activist (Helena Bonham Carter) who helps him escape with other captured human slaves (including Kris Kristofferson and Canadian synchronised swimmer turned Maxim girl Estella Warren). This enrages the more militaristic apes like army general Thade (Tim Roth) who'd rather just eliminate the pesky human menace.
Burton's vision, an amalgam of the original's political and racial parallels, his own visual and cinematic style, and a move towards more action, serves this story well. These violent apes are more realistically, um, primal than the coifed and sophisticated intellectuals who debated humans' fate like fat Roman senators in the original. These warlike creatures who themselves have duplicated an evolution hierarchy of interspecies racism (monkeys bad, chimps good) are here to kick some human ass, or at least until Wahlberg rallies his own team, Braveheart-style. When the original was made in 1968, many of these actors weren't even born, but there remain a few mini tributes to the original, including the appearance of Charlton Heston as general Thade's dying father. And while you won't find the original's "they blew it up!" surprise ending (this is definitely not Earth), it does have its own entry into the "what the " conclusion sweepstakes. Come for the make-up, stay to see some simian whup-ass.