Planet of the Apes (2001)

(On DVD, April 2011) It’s not as if I deliberately waited ten years to see the Planet of the Apes remake, but considering that there was no reason for this “re-imagining” to exist and how savaged the film was upon its release, it’s not as if there was any reason to see it sooner.  No reason except filling up a spot on Tim Burton’s filmography, maybe: For all of his duds, Burton can usually be relied upon to present an original vision on-screen.  Alas, what ends up on the screen in Planet of the Apes feels like a cheap and dumb cardboard fantasy rather than a fully-developed universe.  The script itself has a number of problems, from a lack of complexity to ideas that were best abandoned in fifties Science-Fiction.  But it’s in the presentation of the apes that the film stumbles into the uncanny valley, with characters that sometimes look fine, sometimes look wrong and so never completely convince.  (I still don’t know what it means that I could recognize Paul Giamatti in full ape makeup)  The ape social system (and attendant human slavery) feels like a fable rather than a convincing concept, and the by-the-numbers nature of the film’s plotting is both convenient (apes can talk but they never learned how to swim!  What luck!) and numbing.  As if that wasn’t enough, Planet of the Apes ends with an epilogue that means to evoke chills in the Twilight Zone tradition, but only ends up sealing the film’s nonsensical lack of appeal.  Ten years later, well, there’s not much left in the remake: It may have been the tenth-grossing film of 2001, but the original still remains the cultural reference.  Anyone who hasn’t yet seen this one shouldn’t be in any hurry to do so.

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