Planet of the Apes (November 30/01)
Rumors of a Planet of the Apes remake had been swirling around since the early '90s. At one point, James Cameron was to direct with Arnold Schwarzenegger starring. Then Oliver Stone was to take the helm. The film looked like it might never get made, until Tim Burton stepped up to the plate. And as he and other various folks associated with the movie have mentioned countless times, this is less a remake of the 1969 classic and more a "re-imagining" of the same world.
Mark "Marky Mark" Wahlberg stars as Leo Davidson, a cocky pilot who - through a series of bizarre incidences - finds himself thrust into a world where intelligent simians rule. The humans have been relegated to slavery, used as bartering chips among the apes. Being the headstrong soldier that he is, Davidson is not content to just sit around and do the bidding of a bunch of monkeys, so he sets out to escape his captors and make it back to his ship - where he'll hopefully be able to fly away from this planet of the apes. Along the way, he befriends two women - one an ape and one a human - and incurs the wrath of a vengeful chimp named General Thade (played with over-the-top malicious glee by Tim Roth).
Planet of the Apes bears little resemblance to the Charlton Heston flick that came before it, choosing to play out as more of an action movie than a drama. And oddly enough, some of the more compelling characters in the movie are under a few coats of ape make-up. As one of the few humans, Wahlberg has an unenviable job - he has to try and make an impression while standing next to remarkably lifelike apes, monkeys and orangutans. And he's good, though in a bland sort of way. It's the many actors trapped inside ape costumes that steal the show, particularly Paul Giamatti as Limbo. Best known for his role as Howard Stern's arch-nemesis "Pig Vomit" in Private Parts, Giamatti has been stealing scenes for years. It's amazing, then, that he still manages to do so even while under pounds and pounds of make-up.
If there's a fault to this otherwise consistently entertaining flick, it's a truly bizarre ending that leaves a horrible after-taste. Twist endings are good, provided they make sense. Twist endings simply for the sake of twist endings are bad, and that's what we've got here. Burton should have just left well enough alone and either ended the flick after that last battle, or copied that oft-imitated conclusion from the original. Anything but this nonsensical ending that we're stuck with.
Planet of the Apes is summer entertainment done right. With a top-notch director and some amazing visual effects, it's certainly one of the most entertaining check-your-brain-at-the-door flicks in recent years.