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Planet of the Apes (2001, Mark Wahlberg, Helena Bonham Carter)

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Tim Burton’s ‘re-imagining’ of Franklin J Schaffner’s 1968 original incorporates both stunning visual effects and very human (and simian) emotions. Mark Wahlberg plays astronaut Leo Davidson, whipped through space and time to a ‘world’ where apes and gorillas rule the humans. Captured, he is nurtured by Ari (Helena Bonham Carter) and hunted by General Thade (Tim Roth) as he leads a rebel group of humans and chimpanzees in search of his downed craft. This is his only hope of escape and, ironically, the planet’s only hope of shaking off the tyranny of the gorillas, allowing peaceful humans and chimpanzees to co-exist.

While Schaffner’s film contained few special effects, relying instead on the sheer shock of the turnaround situation, Burton, while maintaining the core of the story, is able to call on CGI from Industrial Light and Magic to amplify Leo’s disorientation: the ape city resembles Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast while battle scenes see hundreds rather than dozens involved. Wahlberg is perfect as Leo, an astronaut who’s almost an automaton, his blankness the canvas on which Bonham Carter, as the caring Ari, paints her emotions; while an almost unrecognisable Roth almost steals the film as the psychopathic Thade.

Charlton Heston, the star of the original, has a delightful cameo with the chance to revisit his classic lines with a neat twist, while Paul Giamatti as the ‘animal’ trader who sells humans provides a light role. Burton’s finale is as shocking as that of Schaffner’s original but again, with an individual take, leaving the audience to wonder quite what implications some of the opening scenes have for the future.

production details
USA | 119 minutes | 2001

Director: Tim Burton
Writers: William Broyles Jr, Lawrence Konner, Mark D Rosenthal, based on Pierre Boulle’s novel

cast
Michael Clarke Duncan as Attar
Erick Avari as Tival
Glenn Shadix as Senator Nado
Deep Roy as Gorilla Kid / Thade’s Niece
Evan Parke as Gunnar
Mark Wahlberg as Leo Davidson
Tim Roth as General Thade
Helena Bonham Carter as Ari
Kris Kristofferson as Karubi
Estella Warren as Daena
Paul Giamatti as Limbo
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Krull
Charlton Heston as Zaius
Chad Bannon as Red Soldier
Linda Harrison as A woman
Melody Perkins as Friend At Leo’s Party
Lisa Marie as Nova
Lucas Elliot Eberl as Birn
Chris Ellis as Commander Karl Vasich
Kevin Grevioux as Limbo’s First Handler / Ape Commander / 2nd Ape Soldier
Rick Baker as Old Ape #2
Martin Klebba as Monkey Grinder’s Pet
David Warner as Sandar