Planet of the Apes

Rated R 119 minutes 2001

The entertaining if facile 1968 original was cowritten by Rod Serling, and though this fancy 2001 version claims to be neither a remake nor a sequel, I'd call it the former—though one that tries to reconfigure the various commercial elements (SF adventure story, satire, action, surprise ending) rather than duplicate them. The problem is that Serling was a liberal satirist and fabulist (as presumably was Pierre Boulle, author of the source novel Monkey Planet), while the gifts of Tim Burton are chiefly visual. Pictorially, this is sometimes wonderful (and some of the credit should go to production designer Rick Heinrichs). But as satire it's toothless and at times close to incoherent; its predictable swipes are aimed equally at conservative racists and bleeding-heart liberals, and the screenplay by William Broyles Jr., Lawrence Konner, and Mark Rosenthal doesn't seem terribly invested in anything. The tone swerves between satire and straight-ahead action and frequently into bits of unintentional camp, such as the snorts and growls (complete with martial-arts flying and lots of pounding violence) of the simians, Charlton Heston's cameo as a dying Yoda-type ape, and Estella Warren in cavegirl-jailbait attire that's worthy of black-and-white 50s drive-in fodder. Even a few standard-issue explosions are folded into the mix, reminding us repeatedly that this isn't so much a story as a set of attractions for kids. None of the characters captured my interest. With Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Clarke Duncan, Kris Kristofferson, and David Warner.

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