Monkeying Around
Planet of the Apes
Review by Ross Anthony

In the future, in space, a lone chimp launches in a pod from a human space station. The craft and chimp are lost in a time-storm. Mark Wahlberg saddling into his pod rides to the rescue and ends up crash-landing on the PLANET OF THE APES.

Technically speaking, I don't really understand why the pod had to be controlled by a chimp. The goal was to take some readings from within the storm ... a remote probe would have been Planet of the Apesperfectly appropriate. Then once Wahlberg crashes and submerges his craft in some liquid on the planet's surface, he immediately tears the life-supporting space suit off as if he knew the alien pond were non-toxic, the planet's atmosphere contained O2, and the pressure agreeable as to curb the chance of his head popping like a pimple.

Scientific anomalies aside, "APES" keeps a good pace swinging from scene to scene like a monkey in the trees. Wahlberg is strong, but it's Paul Giamatti that sets the film on its hind legs. He plays the cynical human-slave trader, lovable with his satire and throwaway humor, sort of a monkey's uncle. Nonetheless, it's Heston's cameo as a non-human that filmgoers will remember. The irony grips with both opposable thumbs as the hairy-faced human star of the original film of the same name and NRA supporter talks of the dangers of that powerful human invention - the gun.

As for art, in typical Tim Burton fashion, the planet of the apes is confined to a small dark world until finally Wahlberg breaks through the wall (wahl?) and flees into daylight. This is where the film takes a helpless breath toward drama. Tim Roth (a fantastic actor) plays the Planet of the Apesformidable commander of the ape army. He's very good, but the tension between Thade and Wahlberg needed to be initiated earlier, stronger. Other personal conflicts are likewise undeveloped. Very little cinematic attention is paid to real drama, in hopes that the pace, art direction, special effects and story line will be plenty to propel the production.

Unfortunately, the art direction has nothing as impressive to offer as the original film (for its time). Burton certainly created better projects in the past. While some "monkey faces" are strong, others are weak. We seldom feel that these characters are much more than men in ape suits. Likewise, while the special effects are average to midland, they're simply not special. Lastly, the story line cannot avoid being campy/hokie ... when apes wear mascara, dentures and toupees. Ultimately, pace alone can't carry the film.

Most of the dialogue (aside from Giamatti's asides) seldom rises above routine, though one cynical line cracked up this audience. When a family decides to take in a human child as a pet, Giamatti warns, "Be sure to get rid of her before puberty. One thing you don't want in your house is a human teenager."

  • Planet of the Apes. Copyright © 2001. Rated PG-13.
  • Starring Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Clarke Duncan, Paul Giamatti, Estella Warren, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, David Warner, Kris Kristofferson and yes, Chuck Heston.
  • Directed by Tim Burton.
  • Screenplay by William Broyles Jr., Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal.
  • Based on a novel by Pierre Boulle.
  • Produced by Richard D. Zanuck at 20th Century Fox.


Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:00:36 PDT