By Matthew Turner (Erdington)
I for one have fond memories of the classic Planet of the Apes movie Roddy McDowall is forever known as one man or should I say ape to me. I watched it on TV, video tape, DVD and Blu-ray and each viewing has definitely shown me or more even taught me something new. Imagine yourself in Charlton Heston’s run of the mill role of George Taylor, being on a world or planet that you are the inferior species. What would you do? Would your power of survival be enough to stay alive? Doesn’t have to be apes though could be any form of animal or technology. The movie asks all these questions and answered it in true epic style. The statue of liberty ending was and still is one of the best twist endings ever. It was earth all along, wow, wtf moment certainly. Oh, and for those of you born not so long ago or don’t know your Cornelius from your Dr. Zeus, I apologies if I’ve ruined the ending (where have you been?).
And the original still should stand alone as a great movie but the sequels that followed were never quite so captivating but having the 3rd movie based in modern day was a neat idea and executed well as a novelty somehow tongue in cheek movie. The others just dragged and had some cool battle scenes but the sense of wonder had disappeared. So by the last movie battle for the Planet of the Apes we were not overly excited (I’m 31 so I’ve obviously watched them on repeat or video but I as a youngster kind of was in it just to see an ape walk and talk so the storyline was not important). Apart from the TV show the apes franchise was as finished as Mel Gibson’s career and buried for a while, until years…years…and a few more years later the apes were rising, but not as we know it. Tim Burton was (begged) asked to come and bring the universe of the Planet of the Apes bang up to date and do it as only he knows.
The answer was easy for Burton; it was an opportunity to make the apes movie of the 00s, why not? The cast were great names, Kris Kristofferson, Helena Bonham Carter, Tim Roth, Michael Clarke Duncan, the great actor Cedric the Monkey, oh and erm, MARK WAHLBERG. So the scene was set “the apes must look more up to date and convincing then the 70s versions…must be” is what we were saying in vain before the release. However we were promised a shock ending to match the original. I went half eager half-drunk to watch this movie, the opening credits “wow” it’s a head of a soldier ape and its black shiny helmet while the credits roll over it. Then “directed by Tim Burton” appeared and the movie can properly begin. We firstly see Mark Wahlberg get in an erection over a monkey who has to be sent out to test the areas their space ship wants to go and this monkey gets lost in orbit, so Wahlberg’s so far by the book boring character goes after it. And after some wibbly wobbly timey wimey crap Wahlberg ends up in a swamp and bam 10 minutes in we see apes chasing and picketing humans, and by minute 13 we hear them speak!!
So there’s no build up dramatically to the moment so maybe the generation this was released in could feel the awe and wonder, but no “get your hands off me, you damn dirty human” was cheaply reused and Charlton Heston’s cameo was about as powerful as Bambi on ice. Helena Bonham Carter made her usual appearance in her hubby Burton movie, she brought nothing to the party and I believe Sandra Bullock (seriously) would have been better cast. The movie rushed along at such a pace it was difficult to remain interested in characters and by end of the movie you really wish General Thade would rip Mark Wahlberg a new arsehole, but this is PG 13 rated crap so no such luck. The ending, which was supposed to have blown our minds like the original, did disappoint and didn’t make much sense, and the only thing that was blown was 15 quid on cinema tickets to see that. The apes did not look convincing and the only high point was Tim Roth’s maybe too camp at times performance of Thade. The rest of the cast however looked bored, rigid and wooden.
Tim Burton screwed a good chance to make this franchise a cooler maybe darker version of a classic, but it was not to be the case. It was camp, corny and I half expected Derek Trotter to stroll in to scene and call them all plonkers! The wait was not so long for the reboot it sorely needed though and Rise and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes were a massive improvement in theme and thoughtful subjects. I await the 3rd instalment quite happily!
P.S. I would like to say I do think Tim Burton is a quality film maker and this movie and perhaps a few others have not been a success for him, but Tim if you’re listening, I think it’s time for an Addams Family comeback and a director’s chair with your name on it.