Looking back at Tim Burton's PLANET OF THE APES

Tom Pheby revisits Tim Burton's 2001 re-imagining of Planet of the Apes.

Over the years I have enjoyed many Tim Burton Films. He has a unique style, with each of his movies fashioned into a crazy, stylized, almost cartoon appearance, that is as much about Burton's character as it is about the Script. In fact you can spot a Burton Film almost from the opening sequence, and even more so when his regular playmate Danny Elfman's familiar sounding scores begin to filter through the cinema sound system.

Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice, Mars Attacks, Ed Wood and The Corpse Bride - all feel as if they've tumbled out of the same creative mind. Certain elements of Batman (1989) even resurfaced in The Nightmare before Christmas (1993), including sections of the score and some of the designs and costumes.

Burton's involvement with movies has always been a semi psychedelic event that dips into the realms of fable and fantasy, yet they have always delivered on one level or another, and his ability to tell even the most preposterous story and make it entertaining is without question. Well it was without question, and his movies had always delivered, until he made Planet of the Apes. A truly dire offering that seemed to suggest Burton's 'Midas Touch' had deserted him completely.

Burton's 2001 take on Planet of the Apes tries to expand on the Apes series but fails miserably on all counts. Offering nothing except a glossy, visual update that has little or no ambition and tells us nothing new.

Mark Wahlberg, who was once in a dreadful band and departed to make a number of terrible films, takes the lead as Leo Davidson. He has been involved in training an Ape to carry out maneuvers in space which have been deemed too dangerous for any would be Buzz Lightyear's or Dan Dare's. It's a well known fact that a monkeys aren't bothered by scripts making any sense and will virtually do anything for a handful of peanuts or a few bananas - similar to Wahlberg methinks!

When the monkey goes missing (not a euphemism) Leo flies off after him and ends up on a nearby planet. Or so he assumes. His craft plummets into a watery grave and disappears without a trace, but unfortunately Leo makes it to the surface.

Yes, he's going to get captured and handed over to a chimpanzee scientist for study, break out, lead a rebellion and find out that he can't go home after all. Now If that doesn't sound familiar my name is Roddy McDowell.

Burton manages to make room for the wife, Helena Bonham Carter, to play the obligatory empathetic ape Ari, but it's nothing we haven't seen before. Likewise Tim Roth tries his best as the murderous and self centred Thade, but he can try all he wants because when a movie lacks as much tension and genuine credibility as this one it's impossible for one actor to make any difference. As a result I spent large periods of it quite bored. A bit harsh I know, but it just lurched from trivial to bland and back again. It's not the worst film I've ever seen by any stretch of the imagination, but it just wasn't the film I wanted, and stranger still it just didn't feel like a Tim Burton movie.

The Script by Mark Rosenthal, William Broyles Jr and Lawrence Konner is a predictable and incredibly dull reworking of the original that doesn't have the decency to admit that it's a few pages short of plagiarism. Yet despite being heavily critiqued by many (including me!), Burton's Planet of the Apes managed to earn $362,211,740 - this was obviously before anyone read the reviews!

Burton must have realised what he'd made because he never volunteered for another and probably to this day still wakes up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat at the prospect of discovering he's contractually obliged to direct a sequel!

At least we now know that this Apes movie was merely a hiccup, and that a decade later far better things were to come, such as "Rise of The Planet of the Apes" with James Franco and "Dawn of the Planet of The Apes" both of which were superb in their own right and thankfully readdressed the balance. Likewise, to readdress the balance slightly, and so I don't alienate Wahlberg fans completely I have thought of a few of his flicks which I like. The Departed, Shooter and The Fighter - but it has to be said, he doesn't always chose wisely.

Tomorrow we look back at 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Script Writer, Poet, Blogger and junk television specialist. Half English, half Irish and half Alsatian, Tom is well known for insisting on being called Demetri for reasons best known to himself. A former film abuser and telly addict who shamefully skulks around his home town of Canterbury after dark dressed as Julie Andrews. Follow Tom on Twitter
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