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Tim Burton Week: Planet of the Apes (2001)

Remake has become one of the dirtiest words in film language; the simple thought of ever touching an old classic is immediately hissed at by cinema fans, making them recoil in terror as their favourite works of art are destroyed (Because when you remake a film, it’s a fact that the original ceases to exist anymore). Remakes are not as big a problem as some would claim they are; sure, for the most part, they’re entirely unnecessary, but often times, it could be that a director has very interesting take on the original source material.

Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes is not one of those times. Now for the most part, we’re celebrating the kooky director this week in the lead up to his new film, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, but let’s face it, the man is not perfect; despite my love for some of his films, I’ve been very vocal about his missteps, and am ceasing this opportunity to talk about what is by far the biggest travesty of his career. This film is the first in the unofficial “Mark Wahlberg Plays Smart People” trilogy, as it sees him playing astronaut Captain Leo Davidson. This would be followed by his role as a Science teacher in The Happening, and an “inventuh” in Transformers: Age of Extinction. There’s one striking similarity between those three films, but I just can’t put my finger on it…

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Anyway, Davidson accidentally opens a portal to another world inhabited by intelligent apes, and is treated as their slave. But with the help of an ape named Ari (Helena Bonham Carter), he starts a rebellion. This is by far the worst remake ever conceived. At least Gus Van Sant’s Psycho was ambitious. At least the American Italian Job (Also starring Walhberg) was a little bit fun, if you forget it’s a remake. Planet of the Apes does not work on a single level. Not only is it completely inferior to the original film, it’s completely inferior to like 90% of films. Planet of the Apes is a baffling experience from start to finish; you hear the dialogue, see the performances, look at the visuals etc. and for all two hours of it, you find it hard to comprehend that you’re watching a real film. Let’s start with the performances; I feel quite mean making of Mark Wahlberg trying to play smart people. This isn’t a reflection on his real intelligence, but it’s the way he presents himself, and his Boston accent added to it that just makes him so hard to take seriously. And Wahlberg isn’t necessarily a one note actor. It’s easy to think of him as a cop or a criminal or literally just some random guy from Boston, but looking over his career, there is a fair bit of range. But watching him trying to tackle this science malarkey is embarassing. He makes for a completely unconvincing hero, and not one that’s worth following or rooting for. As for the rest of the cast, they’re all caked up in so much make up that it’s impossible to actually see a performance in any of them. And these are some really talented actors; Helena Bonham Carter, Tim Roth, Paul Giamatti, and Michael Clarke Duncan all suffer from being too done up to have any real impact on their role, not to mention the script is terrible.

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The script’s biggest offense is the way it takes some of the original’s most famous lines and re-purposes them in a cringe inducing ways. “Get your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty human” is one of the worst things ever uttered by an actor on screen. It also badly tries to build on characters and ideas presented in the original, and fails miserably. But maybe the worst thing about the film is the visuals. Despite having a huge budget and a visionary director at it’s helm, Planet of the Apes is a horrendous looking motion picture. The practical monkey costumes look stupid as anything, and as I said before, they do not allow for any good acting whatsoever. At least in 1968, the make up on those apes were practical because that was all they had, and to this day, they’re still fantastic. The emotion in characters like Dr. Zeus and Zira felt very real, whereas characters like Thade and Ari are impossible to take seriously, because they look so stupid. Tim Burton’s previous films like Beetlejuice and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure hold up far better than this one, as do all of the original Planet of the Apes films. The effects are embarassing to look at nowadays; they serve no purpose to livening up the already dull action sequences within the film, and it’s just shocking that a film from 2001 could look this bad. Finally, the film’s ending is a horrific insult to one of the greatest film twists of all time, and just a purely terrible end to a purely terrible film.

Maybe we should be grateful for Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes…After all, without it, we probably wouldn’t have Rise and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and a world without them scarcely bares thinking about. Still, this remake’s existence does not undermine that of the original; it’s still there for you to watch, and bask in it’s glory, or you could even go for the aforementioned recent films. But whatever you do, don’t touch this one. It is by far the biggest mistake Tim Burton will ever make.

Miss Peregrine’s School for Gifted Children is out 30th September

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