Hello, friends in time, and welcome to a regular feature on Cinema 52 where I put my weekly viewing of Back to the Future on hold and watch another movie featuring time travel for comparison. It may not keep me sane, but it will probably always involve one guy shouting, “This doesn’t make any sense!” And that’s good enough for me.

PLANET OF THE APES (2001)

APES

So look, the original Planet of the Apes confused me a little as to what exactly was happening (time travel? suspended animation? lightspeed time dilation?), but in fairness, I don’t think the writers of any installment in the franchise quite understood space travel, natural selection, or language death. Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes, on the other hand, lets us know right away that astronaut Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg) is accidentally plunging through a wormhole to the future. Departing from a deep space research station in hot pursuit of his chimpanzee test subject Pericles, Leo’s pod falls through a big flashy sci-fi thing and the clock goes cuckoo. He lands on a planet. There’s apes.

THE STORY:
Right. Story.

Check it out. Monkey-fuckin’.

Sorry, I’ve jumped ahead here, but the same question will always plague remakes until the end of time: what’s the point? That’s not implying that remakes are inherently pointless, but the question must be asked for each one that comes along. Hopefully, before production begins. In the case of this film, why steal some of the story of the original Apes but change a scene or two? If the argument is that they can’t be identical because the audience would be bored knowing what’s going to happen, why would we not be bored by the half they already stole?

Look. A Heston monkey.

So yes, the astronaut is taken into captivity by intelligent, talking apes. There are also humans on this world, and the astronaut fights to prove that they are equals. But because it has to be different, this time the native humans can talk and are slaves to the apes, so it’s less of an animal cruelty theme like the original and more straight-up racism. Fun? Then the astronaut journeys to a forbidden area of the planet to learn about how these apes came to power. Then there’s a twist. The twist here is that there are two twists. Yup.

Here. Have an ape-splosion.

Please do not become excited by the thought of charred gorilla carcasses raining from the heavens. This may be the most needless remake I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen the 2002 version of The Time Machine. Both use the formula of 70% original story, 30% new bullshit, and that formula’s purpose is name recognition. Name recognition and filthy sexy cash, I should say.

THE ACTING:
Mark Wahlberg’s first big, defiant “action” line is: “I’m goin’ to get my chimp.” Picture him selling that line. Go on. Try.

Don’t pahk in the time woahp, guy.

The only other notable human faces are Estella Warren and Kris Kristofferson as a native sexy romance object and its father. I’m sure that’s all they were told and they enjoyed the paychecks.

Rejoice, fans of Millennium and Her Minor Thing.

Tim Roth is an evil monkey named General Thade. He’s got that weird, lanky strut and penchant for head-tilting that numerous villains (but no actual people) have. He’s lucky that his make-up looks the least like his actual face.

You know those villains who look like they always have water in their ears?

Helena Bonham Carter is the Manic Pixie Dream Ape named Ari. She doesn’t follow society’s rules, man. She’s a thinker, a lover, a punk, a rebel… whatever qualities you want in a hot monkey, she has them. I can’t help but wonder if the director fell for HBC solely because of her sexy monkey face.

“Keep the mask.” – Tim Burton.

Michael Clarke Duncan is a badass gorilla colonel named Attar. Unfortunately, they gave him the obligatory cutesy reversal of the “damn dirty ape” line from the original, so I dock Michael a point for not slapping whoever told him to say that.

That line leads to entire movies of nothing but referential switch-ups, à la Star Trek Into Darkness.

And then there’s Paul Giamatti. Okay, so Paul has to be the “wacky” ape, an orangutan named Limbo who sells human slaves. He is goofy and over-the-top and gives what I would call the best performance in the film. What sucks is that he would be perfect in a comedy about talking apes, and he could go all out and have a blast and hooray for everyone. Unfortunately, his role here only highlights how movies work now. Make them darkly serious, then have one nutty guy so it’s not too depressing. Why can’t the apes just be a little charming? A little serious? A little funny? You know, like in the original? It’s a shame that, while his performance is great on its own, Giamatti’s hamminess mostly just points out how unenjoyable the rest of the film is.

Boi-oi-oing.

THE SPECIAL EFFECTS:
It’s no fun to talk about special effects after CGI. But here is some of that CGI.

Whoosh.

The time travel effects look like every other CGI hole in space. The little monkey pod goes voip a few times. Then Wahlberg’s pod goes bwoof.

Purple readings are off the charts.

And… well… APE-SPLOSION.

If they made just this scene as a YouTube short film, I’d give it five stars out of four.

And yes, as evidenced by the photos in the Acting section, the make-up effects on the apes are incredible and Rick Baker is an absolute genius. It’s a tragedy that he put so much great work into a practically unwatchable film.

OTHER (SPOILERY) STUFF:

  • Here’s all the dumb shit at the end, which is different from the original Planet of the Apes, ie. the only reason to watch this, which is not enough of a reason. I’m saying these are spoilers, but who cares? Oh, wait, this spoils the original a little bit too. Whatever. I’m not your dad. Skip to the next section if you want to. So Mahky Mahk goes to the forbidden zone, which is called Calima. Guess what? It’s the space station he came from. They crash landed after he took off, and all the inhabitants of the planet evolved from the apes and humans from the station. Why do they call it “Calima”? Because there’s a CAution LIve AniMAls sign on a wall, covered in easily removable dust. Long… slow… fart… is my reaction to this. Then the chimp from the beginning lands and everybody thinks he’s Monkey Jesus, ending the war. Lemme crack off another one for that scene. Then Wahlberg escapes to the actual, real, honest-to-goodness Earth and it’s identical to ours in every way but all the people are apes. There’s a Lincoln statue with the bad guy’s face on it. Not some random monkey. The actual Tim Roth monkey. Here, watch a guy try to explain this dipshittery with his questionable editing, proofreading, and bad movie recognition skills; I’m gonna go hit the chili buffet.

THE “NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE!” MOMENT:
I’ll just say that Wahlberg’s stunned silence says more about the big pile of what-the-fuck crammed into the ending than any crazy ranting time paradox speech ever could.

“…

FINAL THOUGHTS:
This film is wholly unnecessary and mostly unwatchable. Or, as a young Mark Wahlberg might say: wicked retahded.

LATER THIS WEEK:
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)

Want more time travel? Head on over to the Time Out archive.