Are You With Us? Planet of the Apes
By Ryan Mazie
August 2, 2011
I have to be honest with you. Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes did not come out this weekend. While this column usually relates to movies released in the same time frame, this was too good of an opportunity to pass up. This Friday, the idiotically titled, James Franco-led reboot Rise of the Planet of the Apes is hitting theaters exactly a decade and seven days after 2001’s failed franchise-starter. Yet Mark Wahlberg’s Apes was still number one at the box office in the second weekend as well, so that counts for something, right?
Tim Burton is one of my favorite directors. His style is creative without being kitschy and his films usually always hit the mark, mixing quality with entertainment. A re-do of Planet of the Apes with him behind the wheel looks good on paper, bringing a darker aspect to a pretty dour plot. Unfortunately, what we end up with seems like filmmaking by committee. Nothing looks particularly Burton-esque, we are never sure who to root for, and motivations come and go. The result is Tim Burton’s most creatively bankrupt film yet. It looks even more pedestrian when comparing it to the Burton film it followed, the visually inventive Sleepy Hollow. This might be due to the fact that almost every single director that has made a $100 million grosser had been set to direct a variation of Planet of the Apes at one point or another (some interesting names attached were Oliver Stone, Michael Bay, Chris Columbus, Peter Jackson, and James Cameron).
The film stars Mark Wahlberg (I guess Johnny Depp wasn’t available) as an astronaut in 2029 who gets sucked into a space storm that spits him back out onto a strange planet about a thousand years later. To his horror, the few surviving humans are slaves to talking apes led by the dictator-like General Thade (Tim Roth). Seen as a savior from another planet to the humans, Wahlberg leads a resistance against the apes in hopes to find his ship and get back home.
A straightforward plot that offers little in twists and turns, Planet of the Apes is big-budget filmmaking at its lowest. The only bits of unpredictability are at the end of the film, but they are so haphazard and idiotic, that the movie would be better off not having them at all.
Wahlberg as an actor for me is either hit or miss. He seems to live or die by the screenplay. When he is working with strong material, he turns in grade-A performances (The Fighter), when he works with zilch, he sucks out all of the oxygen (Max Payne, The Happening). Here, he dutifully performs the role, although he could be replaced by anyone on the “it-actor” conveyor belt. Estella Warren, who experienced an immense amount of popularity for reasons as unexplainable as a planet of talking apes, is likewise just there on the screen without much to do in the other human role.
I enjoyed some of the action sequences, but in the end they all started to blur together and when the “Man vs. Ape” novelty wears off, the ending battle royale is quite frankly boring.