This plodding remake obviously has no ambition to radically alter the source material, Frenchman Pierre Boulle's novel Monkey Planet, so its raison d'etre looks ever more doubtful. With it clearly being a big studio, big budget, summer blockbuster, so-called 'event movie' I was curious to see how the quirky and distinctive Burton directorial touch would manifest itself. Having sat through the largely unexciting two hours I simply have another unanswered question. There's hardly anything Burton-esque about the film. Okay, it may not be quite as dire as it could have been but, believe me, with some of the wonderfully creative and dark visions Burton has managed to commit to celluloid in the past, this premise could have offered numerous opportunities to delight and surprise. There's little of either in the finished 'product' - and I choose my word with care there.
In its favour are the male performances. David Warner is still distinctively David Warner (and all the more entertaining for it) despite the monkey make-up, but Tim Roth as the lead bad ape is truly chilling at times and is the main, perhaps only, reason to watch the film. However, the female actors efforts, particularly Helena Bonham Carter in the female lead role, are compromised by the unwise decision to attempt to make the sympathetic female ape characters appear 'attractive'. What the hell was Burton thinking? He expects us to find apes attractive just so that we can sympathise with them. Has the guy lost his marbles?
Much of the SF content is pure 50s b-movie hokum (how probable is it that the shuttle craft that Walburg crashes in would have a large calendar as one of its primary control panel read outs?) and the plot drearily predictable. Misjudged from start to finish both in concept and execution (even the female apes wear 60s-style mini skirts!), Burton continues his steady but certain decline into mediocrity. It'll take a darn sight more than a bunch of DVD extras to tempt me back to this stinker a second time. 3/10
Rob Dyer (July 2003)
Planet of the Apes (1968)
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