Awfully Good: Planet of the Apes + video edition of Battle of the POTA!
Planet of the Apes (2001)
Director: Tim Burton
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter
Earth's most unqualified astronaut crash lands on a mysterious planet where things are about to get a little hairy!
The makeup in this movie is amazing. This is the exact film Rick Baker was born to do. The variety of simian species presented and the near-flawless execution is truly remarkable. Monkeys have never looked better on film in practical makeup.
There. I covered everything good about Tim Burton's lifeless, needless PLANET OF THE APES remake.
To be, or not to be, that is the question—
Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to request one's companion to greet his mother on your behalf
The 2001 version of Pierre Boulle's iconic novel is the cinematic equivalent of flinging poo—just Tim Burton and Fox hastily throwing whatever they can together and hoping it works. It's a misfire on every level and a waste of time and money for everyone involved, audience included. There's no direction, no finesse, no point. And with a $200 million budget that was cut in half, rewrites during shooting, and a rushed production that finished only three months before the film's release, it's not a big surprise. The saddest part, aside from Rick Baker's hard work being completed wasted, is that nothing about this feels like a Tim Burton movie.
You know you're running out of money when you have to paint old STARSHIP TROOPERS helmets and use them in your movie.
Mark Wahlberg is capable actor when working with the right filmmaker, like David O. Russell, PTA, or Scorsese. Tim Burton is not one of those directors. Not that Laurence Olivier could've done anything with the main character as written, but the former Marky Mark is a walking disaster as Captain Leo Davidson. You know literally nothing about his character besides his name and that fact that he's a selfish dick. His entire performance consists of him making "Did I just fart?" faces and asking questions—"Who's that?" "Where are we going?" "Why do I care about any of this?" And his big, rousing speech to bolster the human revolution is just embarrassing. I legitimately cringe just thinking about Wahlberg saying, "History belongs to you now!"
No one else fares any better. Tim Roth's General Thade flirts with being somewhat of a memorable villain, but his one growling tone of voice and the same sneering facial expression in every scene makes the character flat. Same with Helena Bonham Carter's human-sympathizing Ari, who's so nice that you're expected to root for her and Wahlberg to go interspecies on each other. Michael Clarke Duncan is big and loud, Kris Kristofferson is death scene fodder, Paul Giamatti is slimy, and Cary Tagawa (MORTAL KOMBAT's Shang Tsung) is an ape who's vaguely Asian-looking. And while I appreciate Estella Warren's wardrobe in the film, she has to be one of the blandest female characters ever. I don't even remember her character's name, but her entire role consists of "Did Mark Wahlberg just fart?" reaction shots and looking upset that he loves a monkey more than her.
How did this movie not get an Oscar nomination for Best Makeup?! This is exactly what Paul Giamatti would look like as a monkey.
The film opens with Marky Mark's wannabe pilot being grumpy to a chimp for being allowed to fly a spaceship while he's not. They send the monkey in his sperm-shaped ship to check out a dangerous electromagnetic solar storm. When the simian's spacecraft disappears, Wahlberg defies his commander to go after him and prove that he can be a pilot too. Of course, he immediately crash lands on a planet.
And because he's such a bad pilot, he found the one planet where apes have evolved in to the dominant species and humans are their slaves. He gets captured by a slave trader along with some other wild homo sapiens and quickly begins telling everyone else what to do, without knowing anything about their society or how it works. He just picks a lock, says "If we stay here, we're already dead!" and convinces everyone else to help him escape. (In the reboot, humans are able to talk, so it is kind of a mystery why they don't revolt themselves. Even the apes admit they're outnumbered.)
Rob Schneider is… MONKEY DENTIST! Coming this Fall. Rated PG-13.
Wahlberg, assisted by nice ape Ari and chased by mean ape Thade, uses a homing beacon to lead everyone to his space station, which apparently has landed on a sacred part of the planet where the first ape emerged. In a surprise twist to absolutely no one, they discover that the ape holy site, where their Ape God emerged and will one day return according to prophecy, is actually his home ship. After some research (i.e. watching a video that somehow still plays), Wahlberg discovers that the ship went through the electromagnetic storm looking for him, traveled in time and crashed on the planet thousands of years earlier (apparently the storm works on opposite time), and the handful of test pilot apes overpowered all the humans to take over. The current society of smart, talking apes is a result of generations of evolution. So basically all this happened because Mark Walhberg was a selfish asshole who disobeyed orders.
Another ape learns he's out of a job thanks to Andy Serkis.
There's no time to process this though, because the final war for ape and human supremacy has begun. The monkey army rides in on their horses (…wait, if everything evolved from Wahlberg's spaceship, where did the horses come from?), but the newly appointed human leader fires up his ship's thrusters and blows the apes all to hell. A fight between the remaining soldiers ensues (the black human slave dies first, obviously) and just as Thade is about to kill his opponent, Wahlberg's chimp pal from the beginning of the movie finally arrives in his sperm-shaped spaceship. The apes assume he is Monkey Jesus and when they see that their Savior is friends with Marky Mark, decide they've been wrong about human slaves this whole time. However, General Thade is such a badass that he starts beating up God. The big confrontation between the two consists of Thade awkwardly fumbling with a gun for the first time and Mark Wahlberg locking him inside a room. Then he makes out with Helena Bonham Carter's monkey princess and leaves to go back to Earth.
Once you go monkey, you always feel funky.
Here's what this movie is remembered for—the tacked-on twist ending. Wahlberg, once again proving what a terrible pilot he is, goes through the electromagnetic storm and crashes his ship in to the Lincoln Monument in Washington DC, only to discover that it's not a statue dedicated to Abraham Lincoln, but General Thade. Turns out present-day Earth is now overrun by monkeys too! This makes little to no sense in the context of the film and seems to have been added just because it provides a shocking final image for the movie. The most generally accepted explanation is that Thade at some point escaped, went back in time and changed human history on Earth. Even if you assume that he somehow found another spaceship, figured out how it worked, located the same electromagnetic space storm, and navigated his way back to Wahlberg's home planet—how exactly does one monkey take over human society and replace it with smart, talking apes. If you have a better explanation as for how this makes sense, please share it in the Strikeback below and congratulate yourself for being smarter than a Hollywood screenwriter.
A few nods to the original PLANET OF THE APES and some of Mark Wahlberg's worst dialogue.
Interspecies love, some random ape moments and the film's nonsensical ending.
One lady ape does a terrifyingly seductive monkey dance.
Take a shot or drink every time:
- Mark Wahlberg looks like he isn't sure whether or not he farted
- Estella Warren is pining for Mark Wahlberg
- Helena Bonham Carter shrieks
- The idiot kid fails at life
- A monkey throws a human
- Charlton Heston cameos
- Monkey flambé!
Double shot if:
- There's interspecies love
Check out our Awfully Good Movies (video edition): BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES below!
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