We gave it a C-
Here it comes again—the most disposable hit movie of 2001. By the end of its opening week in theaters last July, Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes redo had already lost its cachet. Makeup man Rick Baker deserves a big banana bouquet for his awesome rubber masks, yes, but the rest is a slippery peel. Mark Wahlberg sleepwalks as the movie’s astronaut savior. The big battles between downtrodden humans and ruling-class simians exhibit Burton’s usual aversion to scrutable scenic space. And the time-travel-twist finale goes way beyond unsatisfying—it’s mentally challenged.
Having already been slipped a theatrical mickey, watching Apes on video feels like revisiting an old hangover. And sadly, the wide-screen picture’s best selling points—the expressive faces of Helena Bonham Carter as an ape humanitarian and Paul Giamatti as a sleazy orangutan slaver—get caged on full-frame VHS. The image looks terribly dim on tape, too; DVD does a much better job bringing home the low-key lighting.
So what about that ending? Any freeze-framable clues that make it parse better? Nope. Despite Burton’s insistence on a DVD commentary that ”literal people” need to chill out and enjoy mystery and illogic as much as he does, the gaudily costumed ape emperors of this fantasy misfire aren’t wearing any clothes. C-
WHAT WE SAID THEN: ”Burton [abandons] any pretense of gothic poetic style.” (#607, Aug. 3, 2001) C+