Directed by Tim Burton
(2001, 20th Century Fox)
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, and
Michael Clarke Duncan
After crash-landing on a planet controlled by apes, a human finds
his way back to his spaceship, giving the enslaved humans hope of a
December 2nd, 2001 on DVD
A very solid movie that runs a little long. The characters had purpose (well, most of them), the society seemed wonderfully complex and reversed, but the journey took too long to get there, and what the heck was that ending about?!?
I liked most of the twists that this movie took. When Leo is captured by the apes, and sold into slavery, and we see a little girl pick a human pet, we see how this society works. In fact, it is a society
modeled on our own, except that the apes are in charge, and humans are the ones held in cages, called filthy ("wash your hands after touching them before you eat"), and generally despised by the population. Leo has no choice but to go along with the situation, until he can gather more information.
When he is sold to a "human rights" activist, Ari, the equivalent of our animal rights people, he manages to escape. Once he is outside with the other humans, Ari helps them get outside the city. From there, they go back to where his ship crashed, so he can retrieve his homing beacon (why didn't he take it with him before he was captured? Yes, he was trying to escape the sinking craft, but once he had air, he would have gone back down to retrieve
it before exploring, right?). Once he has proven that he has high technology, the three apes with him let him guide them to his headquarters, the place known as Calima.
There is a great scene where Leo leads them through an ape encampment, setting fire to their tents and escaping over the river. Is it an
artificial plot device here, or are apes really afraid of the water? It seems to me that General Thade could have had his horse carry him over the river once he found out that the humans did the same. He could have followed them with a couple of his best soldiers, also on
horseback, defeating them quickly and easily. But he took his entire army around the impasse, reaching Calima days after the humans did.
Calima ends up being Leo's old spaceship, in a really neat twist. My thoughts as to what this place was tended towards an Earth of the future, but I couldn't figure out how the ruins of so many human cities could have disappeared over the landscapes that we see. But these apes were derived from the ones that Leo's ship was carrying while in space, the ones that they used for the more dangerous research missions. One of Leo's
apes disappeared in an ion storm near Saturn (so it seems), and after he went after the
ape, he got lost in the same storm. We saw his chronometer reading fly upwards (hundreds of years, not the thousands that the story later expects us to believe), meaning he was lost in the future. But his command ship went on searching for him, crashed, and the apes took over, subverting the humans. I
do wonder, though, where they got the horses? If they were on the
original spaceship, what were they for?
I have trouble accepting some of this, but it was neat enough that I really enjoyed the time twisting. Perhaps the ship was caught in the storm, too, and pulled backwards in time. That would account for the "thousands of years" since the crash. It is implied by Ari that perhaps Leo's apes "simply didn't want to talk", but that they were capable, perhaps creating a complex culture that we never knew about... and that is certainly implied by the ending of this film...
I also have trouble believing all those humans could have heard about Leo in the time it took to get to Calima (which stands for
CA... (I forget the name of the company)'s LIve aniMAls, easily uncovered by a sweep of the arm over the dust -so why didn't the apes do this?).
How did all of them get away from the sentries? Anyway, he rallies them, uses some fuel to knock some of the apes to the ground, waits a full minute until they start waking
up... and then attacks! Why wait? Get them while they are down, retreat, and use the weapon again on the second wave! Hello... anybody home?
When Thade finally gets the upper hand, Leo's missing ape lands his spacecraft, leading all the apes to think this is the return of the legendary Simos (the ape who led the rebellion against the humans all those generations ago). Thade doesn't believe, and is intrigued by the weapon that Leo takes from the pod. When Thade gains control of the weapon (as inevitably he would), Leo manages to lock him in the former bridge of the control ship, behind bullet-proof glass.
In a really quick ending, Leo hands his chimp over to Ari for safekeeping (!), leaves Thade alive behind the glass, and jumps back into space, returning to the ion storm and back in time to Earth! So not only can the ion storm transport him in time, but also space! And when he returns, he crash lands his spaceship at the White House instead of burning up in the atmosphere, then in a very fake looking scene, crashes into the unguarded front steps of that building, discovering that Abraham Lincoln statue has turned into a statue of General Thade, and that everything that is supposed to be human is actually now ape!
It took me a long time to figure out what this means, and I couldn't have put the final pieces into place without help from the
official web site. Thade escaped his confinement, recovered and repaired Leo's damaged spacecraft from the bog where it had sunk (!),
followed the man into space and the ion storm, but arrived on Earth before Leo because of the nature of the storm, incited the apes of Earth to riot and rebel (even though Leo said there were
only handful alive at this point in time), and took over. It doesn't make sense, even with the explanation. However, I would be interested in seeing a sequel to see how this happened...
What was most interesting in this film was the ape culture, but we didn't see much of that after the first half. Then, it was all vengeance, a long trek, and a battle. I would have liked to see more about the culture. But it seems that it was similar enough to human culture that perhaps it didn't need any more exposition. I don't know.
The costumes for the apes were hit and miss. Some of them, like Thade's or his Colonel's, were terrific. Ari's was terrible, absolutely terrible. It looked like plastic, which, of course, it was. The sound effects were really cool, especially when the apes went from talking to growling or roaring. But the music was terrible, especially during the trek and the battle. What was going on there? -the music was so very dull...
I have never seen the original movie, and I am now interested in doing so, because I'm told it was quite different from this version, especially in the nature of
how the ape-human relationship was born generations ago. This was the fist movie I saw on my new DVD player, and it was worth seeing in this format. I didn't get to watch much of the extra stuff, and I didn't even realize that there was "deleted footage" available until afterwards, but I doubt I missed much. There is no way I would watch 13 hours of extra stuff anyway.
Even if it was a little long, I thought the movie had a solid story, solid acting, and solid purpose (except for the eye-candy nature of the human woman, who did absolutely nothing else). Once the mystery of the apes' origin was revealed, I was
impressed (I love time-dilution stories like this one), but the ending needed more closure. It was way too quick and out of character, and the final scene on Earth seemed put there for shock value only, or to inspire interest in a sequel, not out of any natural progression of the plot.