Movie #89 2021: Planet of the Apes (2001)

No, I didn’t watch the original 1968 Planet of the Apes movie. Whilst I’m sure that it’s brilliant and completely beyond its years, I’m not really sure why Tim Burton’s foray into the world of the primate is detested by so many. And I’ll tell you why.

The 2001 reboot follows Mark Wahlberg as leading man (and astronaut) Captain Leo Davidson. Initially, we see Davidson on a space station with his American comrades, who are also testing on monkeys on their mission. Things rapidly turn awry when Davidson crash lands on a previously undiscovered planet… that just so happens to be run by a society in which apes dominate over the human race. In his haste to return home, he makes some ape friends whilst making a lot of ape enemies. Assembling an army of disgruntled humans and sympathetic apes, Davidson focuses all of his energy in defeating General Thade (below, as played by Tim Roth) and returning back to his former life.

Again, having not seen the original Planet of the Apes, (I know, sorry) I had nothing to compare this to… and I found it entertaining! Now that I’m not sorry about and I don’t care who knows it. 🤷🏻‍♀️

Yes, so much of the dialogue is cheesy and ridiculous, but surprisingly, not from Mark Wahlberg, who is actually pretty good in this movie. Perhaps most strikingly to me is the fact that Helena Bonham Carter plays an ape here, but also plays Princess Margaret – proof that she’s a pretty noteworthy talent to say the least. As you’d expect however, Tim Roth is the star of the show as the film’s main villain, and his evil persona really helps you decide on which side to root for.

In terms of landscaping and world building, Tim Burton clearly took some inspiration from Star Wars and classic westerns… and I’m not mad about it! There are sweeping, sandy horizons and some real sci-fi classic shots of the vastness of space to start the movie off, and each set is extremely convincing and well made. I don’t even need to mention the make up, because it was clearly the best thing 2001 had ever seen. Fight me.

Consistently paced and pretty interesting story-wise, no it’s not the most original or greatest movie in the world and the references to slavery are not subtle whatsoever. But the extent to which this film gets slated is no doubt due to the pretentiousness of its critics. Come on, live a little. Chill out. It’s just a silly blockbuster with a pretty substantial message and it’s entertaining, for crying out loud! There will be 1968 Planet of the Apes truthers out there who whole-heartedly disagree, but if you try to separate yourself from the original, be careful because you might have a fun time.

Did it need a reboot? Probably not. Does that mean it wasn’t enjoyable? For me, no. I hear you: “buT yOu’VE NoT SeEn tHE OrIGInaL!” And you’re right! I’ve not seen the original so I can’t say it was as good as that may be, but I had a good time even if it’s not exactly memorable.

Oh, and the ending? I actually thought the ambiguity of it was pretty fun… but I can completely see why some people would hate it. Decide for yourself. And remember: just because you enjoy this one, it won’t diminish the fact that 1968 holds the classic movie close to its heart.

Planet of the Apes is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ in the UK.

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