Click to enlargePLANET OF THE APES
While this film is laced with excellent direction from Burton it has so much more. From a technical perspective, critics should be watering at the mouth to see this film again and again.
Reviews by Matt McEver
and Mike Furches


This page was created on July 28, 2001
This page was last updated on May 23, 2005

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Directed by Tim Burton
Novel: Pierre Boulle
Screenplay: William Broyles Jr., Lawrence Konner, & Mark Rosenthal

Mark Wahlberg .... Leo Davidson
Tim Roth .... General Thade
Helena Bonham Carter .... Ari
Michael Clarke Duncan .... Attar
Kris Kristofferson .... Karubi
Estella Warren .... Daena
Paul Giamatti .... Limbo
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa .... Krull
Erick Avari .... Tival
Luke Eberl .... Birn
Evan Dexter Parke .... Gunnar
Freda Foh Shen .... Bon
David Warner .... Senator Sandar
Glenn Shadix .... Senator Nado
Lisa Marie .... Nova
Charlton Heston .... Thade's Father

Novel: Pierre Boulle
Screenplay: William Broyles Jr., Lawrence Konner, & Mark Rosenthal

Produced by Ralph Winter (executive producer), Richard D. Zanuck (producer)
Original music by Danny Elfman
Cinematography by Philippe Rousselot
Film Editing by Chris Lebenzon

Rated PG

QuickTime 3.5 MB 4.9 MB 12.9 MB

QuickTime 8.1 MB 12 MB 28.5 MB 47.8 MB

1. Main Titles 2. Ape Suite #1 3. Deep Space Launch 4. The Hunt 5. Branding The Herd 6. The Dirty Deed 7. Escape From Ape City/The Legend 8. Ape Suite #2 9. Old Flames 10. Thade Goes Ape 11. Preparing For Battle 12. The Battle Begins 13. The Return 14. Main Title Deconstruction 15. Rule The Planet Remix (Remix by Paul Oakenfold)

PLANET OF THE APES depicts an upside-down world - a brutal, primal place where apes are in charge and humans scavenge for subsistence, hunted and enslaved by the tyrannical primates. The sudden appearance of one man, alien to the present order and unaffected by its oppression, serves as a challenge to the status quo and a catalyst for revolutionary social change.
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Planet of the Apes

Review by Matt McEver
Planet of the Apes was the defining narrative of my childhood. For years, I wasn't interested in anything if it had nothing to do with Planet of the Apes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, or Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. Some of you may remember the action figures. I had them. Remember "the tree house"? I had it. I had a lunch box and plastic army men that weren't army men. When I first heard in the early 90s that a new version was in development I knew that God was hearing my prayers. I was my son's age when the first Planet of the Apes theatrical release was unleashed, so if 20th Century Fox intends to relaunch the franchise then the cycle could very well repeat itself.
Click to enlargeNOT THE SAME
Many reviewers are evaluating Tim Burton's film by comparing it with the 1968 version, which is a mistake. These are two different films, speaking to different times, concerned with different issues. For instance, the social and political issues that drove the original were the Cold War and nuclear proliferation. The major issues in the current film are handguns and the ethical treatment of animals.
When I used to teach a course on Religion and Film to high school students, they found the 1968 version "boring." If Burton had simply recycled the dialogue-driven original with its slow-paced sequence and lengthy heresy trial, many viewers in today's audience would say the same thing. Burton's film is an action film. The 2001 rendition of the story fits today's criteria for science fiction. But it also does so much more. Consider the way this story has been adapted to address post-enlightenment spirituality.

The 1968 film reflects an Enlightenment mentality. Cornelius (the late great Roddy MacDowell) was the prototypical Enlightenment man: the one who trusts in reason, rationality, and scientific method to make the world a better place. Ape religion was ingrained with his culture, but Cornelius the anthropologist was too "sophisticated" for it. The 2001 Planet of the Apes is addressing an audience that is largely post-Enlightenment, meaning many of us are open to the supernatural because it's obvious to us that rationality did not make the world a better place. So naturally, the social scientist in the new film, Ari (Helena Bonham Carter), could not mimic her 1968 counterpart. While leading Leo out of the city, Ari explains they are headed for Calima, the sacred ruins. "According to our holy writings," she explains, "that is where creation began; where Semos breathed life into us. But most intelligent apes dismiss it as a fairy tale." So far she sounds like Cornelius, but the conclusion of the film gives us an Ari who has crossed the bridge from rationality to faith: "One day they'll tell a story about a human who came from the stars and changed our world. Some will say it was just a fairy tale; it was never real. But I'll know."

Even the astronaut character had to be adapted to fit a postmodern view. In the older film, Taylor (Charlton Heston) is so fed up with humanity that he opts for a space mission that endures for years. He begins and ends the film as a loner. Leo, likewise, begins the film as a loner, having been away from earth for two years. Even one of his colleagues remarks that training chimpanzees is better than having a boyfriend. Leo receives a postcard where a friend tells of his recent engagement and another asks, "When are you going to make a commitment?" After crash landing, he won't make a commitment to his fellow slaves either, saying, "I didn't come here to save them." But once he allows himself to "hear their cries and see their anguish," Leo goes from loner to becoming part of a community.
And where would a postmodern religious film be without the character that becomes disillusioned with institutional religion? In the 1968 film, ape aristocrats reflected the mentality of "the scrolls say it and this issue is not up for discussion." Attar (Michael Clarke Duncan) begins Burton's film in the same vein. We are privileged to two scenes where he prays. His prayer is that of a pious ape: "Bless us holy father, who created all apes in his image. Hasten the day of your return when you bring peace to all apes." He even accuses Ari of blasphemy when she argues that humans have souls. But Attar discovers in the conclusion that his faith is really nationalistic propaganda. He turns his back on civil religion, where holy war is a family value.
Another sign that the current film is adapting to a postmodern view is the spattering of numerous biblical parallels in the story, none of which were in the 1968 version. Ape society is the pre-Exodus Egypt in all its grandeur with a tight grip on the world. It enslaves the foreigners it fears. Paranoia of humans is rampant and rumors circulate about the kinds of diseases they carry. If you're an ape, it's politically correct to see your culture as blessed by Semos. But one ape dissents.
Ari is established as the prophet from the outset, reflecting today's understanding of the Hebrew prophets as social critics. She defies the empire that contemplates mass sterilization of humans. She calls the assumptions of corporate religion and cultural violence into question. She is the lone voice crying in the wilderness: "Humans can be taught. We can live as equals." She envisions a society where the lion lies down with the lamb. And she is shunned for it; even "marked."
Of course, the main character is an amalgam of Moses and Jesus. Using apocalyptic imagery, he is known as the human "not born of this world" who "fell from the sky with a thunderous sound.and the ground shook." A reluctant Leo leads the slaves out of Egypt. They even cross the Red Sea. He promises Ari, "I'll show you something that will change your world forever." The slaves, sheep without a shepherd, see Leo as their last hope. There's also an ascension and a parody on the parousia or "second coming."
The reason we see this movie is for the apes and makeup artist Kenny Baker should be clearing off space on the mantle for an Oscar. The Sound Editors may also hear their names called in March of 2002. And Burton deserves praise for giving us apes that sound and act like apes, even down to their movements and mannerisms.
Burton's goal was to "reimagine" Planet of the Apes. I would say he accomplished his goal.maybe even beyond his own realizations. My prayers have been answered.

Review by

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Mike is the Senior Pastor at United at the Cross Community Church in Wichita Kansas. United at the Cross is a church made up of individuals not often accepted in other churches. The church consists of former gang members, drug addicts, prostitutes and others. Mike also speaks nationally on various topics and is a freelance writer. To learn more about Mike and his ministry link onto In the arts Mike has worked with top music artists such as Steppenwolf, Marshall Tucker Band, Kansas and has an active interest in film. Mike is pictured with his music band "Route 66."

Click to enlargeVery rarely do sequels or remakes hold up to their original predecessor. Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes is a wonderful exception to the rule. This film features the artful direction of Burton from some of the Batman series, Sleepy Hollow, Edward Scissors Hands, The Nightmare Before Christmas and numerous other recent hits. His quirky style has developed a following that can count at least this one reviewer under his wing as a fan of his style. While Burton's films have a dark side, Planet of the Apes is a retelling of the original movie that will please many new fans as well as the old Planet of the Apes faithful. If you are expecting the same story as the original movie, you will be in for a surprise.
Click to enlargeWhile this film is laced with excellent direction from Burton it has so much more. From a technical perspective, critics should be watering at the mouth to see this film again and again. There are numerous aspects that should have film classes studying it starting with this year's fall classes and for classes to come throughout the years. The editing and sound are exceptional. It is likely that this film will win awards in both categories, especially the sound categories. Don't wait for this one to come to video, go see it at a first run theater with a quality sound system. Movies this good should be experienced and viewed in the best ways possible, a big screen with the full sound effects loud and blistering. While there is violence through the film there is seldom any blood or bad language. The film is deservedly rated PG, which is a nice change of pace for many movies today. There are several scenes of bludgeoning and violence but most of this is left to imagination.
Click to enlargeThere were several other aspects that I believe make POTA exceptional, starting with the acting ensemble. I cannot recognize a weak role in the film. Leo Davidson is played as well as Mark Wahlberg can play it and the part was wonderfully cast. There is also a wonderful supporting cast led by the brilliant villain Tim Roth.
Click to enlargeI saw POTA understanding that, due to its nature and style, critics would probably relegate it to recognition for make-up and special effects only. I also knew that, even though there were wonderful actors such as Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Clark Duncan, Kris Kristofferson, Estella Warren, and Paul Giamatti (one of my new favorites and a fantastic character actor, of Big Mamma's House and Private Parts fame), the acting would not be recognized due to the cover-up of make-up by Rick Baker's make-up team. Rick Baker, the all-time guru of make-up has made it feasible that the ability of the acting just might be recognized. Click to enlargeIt is possible that, come awards time, Tim Roth will be acknowledged with numerous nominations and possibly even with a few awards to take home. Along with Jon Voight in Pearl Harbor, this is easily the best supporting role I have seen this year. While this should not distract from the wonderful job he does in this film, it will really be a credit to Rick Baker for his ability to allow the actors in this film work through and show their expressions through the almost 4 hours of make-up that each ape character had to endure each day while filming. I will say this, that from here on out through the duration of the year, they might as well go ahead and engrave Rick Baker's name on yet numerous other awards to add to the ones which he has already won over his lifetime for make-up.
While I could make numerous other comments about the other actors in the film, space does not allow. I will say that Michael Clark Duncan, of The Green Mile fame, Paul Giamatti and Charlton Heston of the original Planet of the Apes films add tremendously to this film. There is a sequence with Charlton Heston, who plays Thade's father, that will please every fan of the original POTA series. Click to enlargeIf you haven't seen the original first two movies you will not understand the significance of the humor in his portrayal of his character in this film. Duncan is as forceful as ever and Giamatti will have audience members asking who this guy was because he is so good. Outside of his distinguishable voice you might never know who he is but you will certainly be laughing at many of his great one-liners.
Click to enlargeUsually at this point one would say or ask, O.K., oh yea, but what about the story? The story line is a classic retelling of the deliverance of Israel's people by Moses. Leo Davidson, played by Wahlberg, crashes onto a planet overrun by apes. On this planet, apes are the aggressors and humans are the servants and slaves. Humans are treated as animals with little or no respect from the apes, with the exception of Ari played by Helena Bonham Carter. After a daring escape Davidson must escape with some of the humans and apes that either come along voluntarily or are brought along. Click to enlargeThrough this Moses style escape Davidson must cross water, which resembles in some ways the crossing of the Red Sea by Moses (Exodus 14:21,22) plus much more. Davidson later on has hundreds of humans that come to him to assist them obtain their freedom from the aggressor apes. Eventually he goes into battle only to be delivered by one that the apes can understand. While this scene does not exactly mirror the coming of Christ to earth, it is a parallel to his arrival as one of us, human. While the makers of the film may not have intended this, the comparison is unmistakable.
Click to enlargeMany will argue that this film supports evolutionary theory but I didn't see it that way. While there may be some aspects of evolution portrayed in the film, I believe the greater story is the story of the need to get to know each other despite differences. Many of the apes wear armor that resembles the dress of the priest in the early Jewish culture yet just as we are told in Scripture, even though they pray before others, pretend to be just, they are just as noisy clanging bells on the robes of some priests (Exodus 28:33-35), (What if I could speak all languages of humans and of angels? If I did not love others, I would be nothing more than a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1,2 Contemporary English Version). Click to enlargeIn many ways, the apes in POTA portray modern humans and their lack of love for each other and anything or anyone different. In their search for religion they have forgotten the importance of love and a relationship and many have missed the obvious deliverer. Just as General Thade, Tim Roth, a great leader and religious man does not accept who his men, oops, apes, see as their Messiah because of bitterness and hatred, many today still refuse to see Jesus as their Messiah. This ultimately leads to death and prevents the power of example that we can have as humans from loving and accepting others who may be different.

Click to enlargeWhile there is much more that could be said about the film it is important to know that Davidson, the human Messiah figure in the film, is a partial representation of what Jesus did for us. Just as the humans resemble the Israelites and their need of deliverance from a powerful enemy, it could also be said that this is the same journey that all humans are still facing today. We are looking for a deliverer from the evils and hardships that not only we endure, but that we bring on ourselves, when, in reality, the answer was there all along. (Christ died for us at a time when we were helpless and sinful. No one is really willing to die for an honest person, though someone might be willing to die for a truly good person. But God showed how much he loved us by having Christ die for us, even though we were sinful. Romans 5:6-8 CEV)


Planet of the Apes © 2001 20th Century Fox. All Rights Reserved.