Remakes - - whether they're shot-for-shot copies or just reinterpretations - - always lead film-makers onto dodgy ground. Especially when they're remakes of already popular movies, and even more especially when they're remakes of already popular movies about apes. Quite why, for example, Dino De Laurentiis ever thought his '76 King Kong could rise above negative comparisons with the original remains a mystery.
The same could be said of Tim Burton's "re-imagination" of Planet Of The Apes, although anticipation levels have been huge among fans of both Apes and Burton. We'd all been thinking: it'll be Tim Burton's take on one of the best-loved sci-fi movies ever made! Must be good! But looking at the result you have to wonder: could anyone have made a new Planet Of The Apes which would be anything other than an expensive and misconceived curio - - rather, in fact, like De Laurentiis's King Kong?
The only things about Burton's Planet which really deserve praise are Rick Baker's make-up and Colleen Atwood's bizarre costume design. They're the only participants who manage to improve on the '68 original, though chimp-lady Helena Bonham Carter also deserves a banana for providing the movie's one decent performance. She manages to meld Ari's simian traits with her human sensitivity and intellect, making her a worthy successor to Kim Hunter's Zira.
As a successor to Chuck Heston's Colonel Taylor, however, Mark Wahlberg is found wanting. It's not entirely his fault: the script dumps him with a hazy creation, denying his character the passion or cynicism of Taylor, leaving him with one trait - he's a man who just wants to go home. But Wahlberg could at least try to look upset that he's stranded on a crazy world run by brutal primates.
So it's not as good as the original. Not a surprise. The real surprise is that Tim Burton's strong directorial style is entirely unnoticable. Even on Batman, he managed to infuse it with his darkly comic, strikingly gothic atmosphere. But Apes? Aside from a couple of strained winks at the Heston version, there's nothing `Burtonesque' about it. It could have been anyone on the mouthend of that megaphone.
The final insult, though, is the ending, which tries to match the original's and fails spectacularly. First you'll snort with laughter and disbelief. Then your anger will slowly grow as you realise that it in no way connects with anything that went before and only exists as a clumsy way to set up a sequel. Last impressions are very important for movies, and Planet Of The Apes' finale leaves you feeling that it's a frustrating failure.
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While not a turkey of Avengers proportions, Planet Of The Apes will disappoint anyone who either loved the original or who's expecting to see a Tim Burton movie. Great make-up and costumes ain't enough to excuse a shoddy plot and a stinker of an ending.