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IN SHORT: oo Tim Burton WaWaa ooo oo ah aa!. [Rated PG-13 for some sequences of action/violence. 115 minutes]
For those that don't speak Ape, that summary reads "Tim Burton makes the coolest looking movies ever!" It doesn't matter if you like 'em or not -- in the case of Planet of the Apes, we're among the former -- his projects deliver one big mindblast after another. For newcomers expecting us to do a story comparison with the movie that starred Charlton Heston, there is absolutely none to be made and its against our rules to compare to Source Material, whether novel or movie.
That being said, Mr. Heston got cheers from our audience when his scene in the new Apes finished. As a direct descendant of the Founder Semos, he passes the greatest secrets of his race to his son, General Thade (Tim Roth). The religion of his people says that, one day, Semos will return in a great ball of fire from the sky, bringing salvation and ridding the planet of the human vermin. In the meantime, Thade spends his time keeping his armies occupied containing the dirty stinking humans who are breed like, uh, dirty stinking humans. Not like the civilized society of his world, whose lesser elements include the cowardly scavenger slash slavemonger Limbo (Paul Giamatti). Thade's second in command, Attar (Michael Clarke Duncan), is perhaps the only ape with moral authority, respect and stature to keep Thade from stretching his paws to attain the utter domination of society that he covets. Ape society is equally divided between The Senate, The Army and The Order (a religious body overseen by Sandar). Though there have been apes that have sought control, the one dominating rule of Ape Society is that Apekind must prosper at any cost.
Thade's bigger problem is that the "great ball of fire" has fallen from the sky and the ape in that spaceship is US Air Force Captain Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg), a dirty stinking you-know-what. The subjugated human population, all of whom mysteriously speak the same English that the Apes do, also see the astronaut as a savior. Leo? He just wants to go home.
As we wrote above nothing about the flick, save the arrival of a human on the planet of apes, is the same as its predecessor. We're doing our best not to spill more than we have to, for while we enjoyed Planet of the Apes, that's about the run of it. For the first hour, give or take, we were wondering if director Tim Burton was playing a joke on all of us who expected a grand drama. Planet of the Apes is a very funny, sometimes inadvertently ridiculous, movie. For that thank (or blame) Ari (Helena Bonham Carter), an ape scientist who believes that humans are not the savages that everyone else thinks they are. Especially the one wearing what's left of a space suit.
If we could tell you why what reads as if it is a story that should kick significant butt, doesn't, we'd be writing scripts ourselves. It isn't the makeup, by Rick Baker, which is brilliant. It isn't that the film is lacking in other subplots, one including human father and daughter team of Karubi (Kris Kristofferson) and Daena (Estella Warren) another of an antagonistic ape rivalry of sorts between Thade's Number Two, Attar and Ari's defender, Krull (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa). It may have something to do with a less bombastic than usual, to us, score by Danny Elfman. Or it may be that absolutely nothing is ever going to top the surprise ending of the first film. Burton tries, but we weren't wowed.
So, let's talk about that makeup and the way actor Tim Roth loses himself in it. It is an amazing piece of work, if only for the fact that at no time in the course of the film did we sit and think "good actor in that makeup". We were thinking "hey, look at the monkey!" Roth steals every scene he's in, as befitting the nasty bad guy he's supposed to be. Of the rest of the cast, only Michael Clarke Duncan comes as close to inhabiting the role.
That's no diss. We wished we had bought a bigger tub of popcorn because we ran out and didn't want to leave our seats.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Planet of the Apes, he would have paid . . .
For those old enough to remember the original first hand, Heston's two or three minutes of screentime is worth the price of admission.
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