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Yet Another ‘Planet of the Apes’

Damn Dirty Apes In Burton’s Pitiful Resurrection of the Classic

By Amy Meadows

Staff Writer

Directed by Tim Burton.

Written by William Broyels, Lawrence Konner, and Mark Rosenthal.

Based on the book by Pierre Boulle.

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, and Helena Bonham Carter.

Rated PG-13

After the original Planet of the Apes came out, it was largely locked away in the annals of popular culture, doomed for Saturday Night Live and Mystery Science Theater 3000. In a word, the film was largely forgotten, yanked from our collective unconscious like a bad act on The Gong Show. The new movie proves that if we forget history, we are doomed to repeat it.

The new Planet of the Apes follows the story of a brash, young Air Force pilot from the year 2029. After the pilot disobeys command, he finds himself hurtled through the space-time continuum into an unknown world where apes are the rulers and humans are enslaved. The All-American hero subsequently leads a human insurgency against the apes, after having landed on the planet only a few days before.

“Marky” Mark Wahlberg, better known as “that guy from the underwear ads” or “that guy from Boogie Nights,” is one of the only characters who has more than half a dozen lines in the whole picture (not including the abundant grunting and screaming). He is the focal point of the movie -- he shoots, runs, and flies his way through the movie. Although he seems endearing enough to the audience, he is ultimately an empty character. There is no motivation other than self-preservation and no reason why he should be righteous enough to lead a rebellion against oppressors. For all we know, he is just as much of an oppressor on his home planet as the apes are on this one. There is no epiphany or complexity of thought about the situation at hand, so he is simply a skeleton upon which the yoke of a plot has been placed.

The apes provide an interesting contrast with the humans on their planet and on ours. They have many of the same violent tendencies, passions, and vices that exist on our own planet. Remarkably, it appears as though they even have democracy (which only took humans a few hundred million years to develop). Helena Bonham Carter plays the liberal bleeding-heart ape who takes the pilot in, leads him to safety, and helps to liberate the humans. However, she too is only a stock character, sadly underdeveloped, and in a role not equal to her acting talent displayed elsewhere (Hamlet and Wings of the Dove, to name a few).

Moreover, the movie is made up of a string of implausibilities. Most truly frightening drama -- from The Twilight Zone to Alfred Hitchcock -- is scary for the simple reason that, in the back of your mind, you think that you could find yourself in that situation. Planet of the Apes simply lacks this power.

The undertones of human and animal rights, environmentalism, and existentialism weigh down the movie, and little time was spent working on the basic elements of plot and character. One of the greatest assets of the old movie is the twist ending, which unifies the movie and makes it compelling. This version tries to defy our expectations, but sacrifices believability. The ending of Planet of the Apes makes the movie seem hollow and preachy, and it renders the rest of the movie unsatisfying.

At once, Planet of the Apes tries to be too much and too little. Many of the sub-themes are of universal importance, but the movie itself is so shallow that we cannot adequately connect with them. Planet of the Apes fails as a movie because it lacks a foundation. Maybe Hollywood will make four or five more remakes before it finally finds one that is exactly right.