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Friday, 17 August, 2001, 16:26 GMT 17:26 UK
Return to Planet of the Apes
Planet of the Apes
Planet of the Apes has attracted huge hype
By BBC News Online's Darren Waters

Director Tim Burton has stressed that his Planet of the Apes film is not a remake of the 1968 original but a "re-imagining".

If this is true - and not just pretentiousness - then the imagination of one of Hollywood's most original directors has evaporated under the heat of the studio lights.

Planet of the Apes
Planet of the Apes made a social point in 1968
Franklin Shaffner's original, based on a French short story, was a classic piece of science fiction that weaved its tale during a decade of social and racial upheaval and worked as a timely parable.

The concept was fresh, the moral lessons sharp and the ending is perhaps one of the more memorable of the last 50 years.

More than 30 years on and Burton's tale is a bankrupt piece of action film-making that ranks as one of the biggest disappointments of the year.

Planet of the Apes 2001 has not evolved; it has regressed.

Ape City

In the new version Mark Wahlberg plays a US astronaut who is somehow catapulted to a planet where apes rule the world and humans are treated as slaves.

He is captured by gorillas and taken to their Ape City but is bought by a "humanitarian" ape played by Helena Bonham Carter, who aids his escape.

Mark Wahlberg
Mark Wahlberg gives a tired performance
What follows is an action adventure with a plot so linear and predictable you could use it as a plumb line.

Wahlberg trudges through the film and seems distinctly underwhelmed as he finds himself on an alien planet with apes who can speak as rulers.

Mediocre

Bonham Carter gives a solid, if unspectacular performance, as his ape friend and only Tim Roth, who plays the menacing military leader of the apes, General Thade, looks to be having any fun.

There is a casualness and half-heartedness which pervades the whole film, as if director, writers and actors could not be bothered to lift the film above the mediocre.

Tim Roth
Tim Roth looks to have enjoyed himself
In one farcical scene the escaping humans flee through the Ape City and crash their way through the bedrooms of each of the ape characters so far encountered in the film. It is a scene straight out of a Carry On movie.

It seems incredible that Tim Burton could have attached his name to such a dull movie. The darkness and invention of past projects, such as Batman and Sleepy Hollow, are wholly absent.

Youth market

Charlton Heston, who took the lead in the original, this time plays a cameo role as an ape.

But his appearance, for about three minutes, is as laughable as it is lamentable.

As a 12 certificate, 20th Century Fox are clearly hoping the film appeals to the youth market but they will not be fooled by such a callow effort.

In fact, Fox must think we have just descended from the trees, if it believes we will lap up such a poor film.

Planet of the Apes is released in UK cinemas on 17 August.

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The BBC's David Sillito
"It's the classic tale of boy meets chimp"
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