The latest about the ”Planet of the Apes” remake
I can see it now. ”Get your stinking Scissorhands off me, you damned dirty ape!” Last month, when word came from Twentieth Century Fox that Tim Burton will direct a new millennium version of ”Planet of the Apes,” I started digging out my old Dr. Zaius mask and my hirsute Roddy McDowell action figurines.
After all, an ”Apes” remake had been rumored for years and I was going bananas just waiting — especially after all the false starts. At one point, Arnold Schwarzenegger had reportedly signed on to star for $20 million, and Chris Columbus and Oliver Stone were both mentioned to direct. Stone probably envisioned the film as a true story in which apes really ARE conspiring to rule the world. It’s no wonder I was so relieved when Burton finally came on board. Now it looks like Apeheads will be in monkey heaven by Summer 2001.
All of which has made me realize how truly bizarre a blockbuster ”Planet” remake actually is. For one thing, much of the appeal of the first five ”Ape” films — from the truly original ”Planet of the Apes” in 1968 to 1973’s truly abysmal ”Battle for the Planet” (the one where McDowell returns from the past to stave off the apocalypse) — was the franchise’s wonderfully low-art sensibility: The latex lips that could only move up and down; Dr. Zaius’s blond Greg Allman hair and beard; Charlton Heston’s overzealous overacting. Not to mention all that unintentionally hilarious dialogue. Remember ”You cut up his brain, you bloody baboon!” and the infamous: ”Human see, human do.”
Still, the original ”Planet” films — and the subsequent ABC TV series and NBC’s Saturday morning cartoon — made me one happy monkey. The franchise’s air of possibility; the ”what if apes really do take over” quotient was, at times, overpowering. At a certain point in my childhood, I thought nothing would be cooler than if Cornelius and Zira showed up at my house, looked at me with their expressive monkey eyes, and told me they were taking me to the Forbidden Zone. That was, as long as I wouldn’t have to lay eyes on my absolute worst childhood nightmare — the dark and hairy General Ursus.
My hope is that a remake won’t make those monkey memories extinct. Then again, if anyone can do the franchise justice, it’s Burton. His famous long shadows, jagged angles, and distorted perspective should lend a new level of depth and darkness to ”Planet.” And it would be great to see Burton’s regular roster of actors — Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Danny DeVito and especially Jack Nicholson — suiting up in ape costumes.
The script in hand, by ”Apollo 13” writer William Broyles Jr., is said to be excellent, though Burton, whose narrative elements tend to take a backseat to his remarkable visual style, is said to be rewriting it to fit his simian imaginings. Not that that’s a bad thing, if dialogue in the remake’s anything like the original. After all, how many lines like ”That’s one small step for Ape, one giant leap for Apekind” can one human take?