Thursday Night Movie Club
Planet of the Apes (2001)
star rating graphicstar rating graphic½
Release Date: May 27, 2001

Director: Tim Burton
Mark Wahlberg
Tim Roth
Helena Bonham Carter
Michael Clarke Duncan
Paul Giamatti
Estella Warren
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa
David Warner
Kris Kristofferson
Erick Avari
Luke Eberl
Evan Dexter Parke
Glenn Shadix
Freda Foh Shen
Chris Ellis
Captain Leo Davidson
General Thade
Colonel Attar
Senator Sandar
Senator Nado
Lt. General Karl Vasich
Planet of the Apes poster
Tim Burton can really make a movie look good. The movie is loaded with action and suspense from the opening clear through to the "surprise" ending. But something is missing and it has to do mainly with character development. Otherwise translated as: Who cares! The movie is surprisingly straight forward and predictable.

Wahlberg stars as Leo Davidson, astronaut and scientist. Leo is working on a deep space research station. He is attempting to train several chimpanzees to operate a "one-person" reconnaissance module. The training simulations aren't going very well. The chimps lose control under crisis simulations. The research vessel comes upon an ion storm and decides to study the phenomenon. A chimp, "Peracles" the same chimp from the simulations, is sent out to investigate since it is expendable. Faster than you can sneeze, the chimp disappears and the caring Leo set out on his own to find his "friend".

Leo passes through a time portal ending up about 500 years into the future. After crash landing into a swamp, Leo is quickly surrounded by fleeing humans. Before his shirt has time to dry, Leo is captured and enslaved by a band of apes. Then comes one of the many throw-backs to the original movie (1968; directed by Franklin J. Schaffner) when Leo places his hand on an ape's boot. The ape roars, "Get your stinking hands off me you damn, dirty human. Humorous only to those who saw the original. This scene also shows how stupid the apes are in Tim Burton's vision. The apes are so blind that no one notices that Leo is dressed differently than every other human on the planet. The curious humans had stolen Taylor's clothes in the original movie.

While enslaved in the City of the Apes, Leo meets several of the leading ape citizens, mainly General Thade (Tim Roth). Thade is menacing, violent, vicious, sadistic and just plain nasty. He is a Chimpanzee that some how has become the military leader. Thade does not show much leadership skill. He is more of a big bully that snarls at anything that moves.

In the original, there was a district separation of class structures with the apes. Gorillas ran the military, Orangutans were politicians, and Chimpanzees were scientists. Tim Burton doesn't find these details to be of any significance and ignores it. His apes are free to become anything they wish, I assume. At a dinner party, all of the three apes species are equally represented. The hosts, Sander (Warner) and Ari (Carter) are Chimps. Sander is a Senator while Ari just seems to be doing nothing of very much interest. She believes that humans and apes can peacefully coexist. Other than stopping some young apes from throwing stones at humans, she isn't very involved in their cause. Ari appears quite frisky around Leo. She has the "hots" for this human. The only reason I can think of is to give the movie a love-traingle motif.

Daena (Warren) is along for just such a ride. She makes good window dressing and even shows a little jealousy when Leo is chatting with Ari by a fire. This presents another problem I had with this film. The love triangle is presented except that Leo is way too busy to stop and smell the roses. He is clueless that Ari and Daena are attracted to him. He is consumed by his notion of getting off the planet.

After easily escaping from those stupid apes, Leo leads a rag-tag band of misfits to where his ship crashed, miraculously finding it as if guided by GPS. A still functioning homing beacon leads Leo to the fabled, doomed city of Calima, where life originated. This is meant to be a surprise but I had one of two possible scenarios based upon the events from the beginning of the movie. Amazingly, both scenarios played out in the movie. Amazingly predictable. The final bit of predictability comes at the very end for the surprise ending. I will only say that it is the exact same ending as in Pierre Boulle's novel.

What this movie boils down to is plenty of action, special effects, stunts, and top-notch (probably award winning) makeup effects. But not a whole lot more. Hey, it's only another good-looking summer action flick.