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Planet of the Apes (2001)

Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes is everything that big-budget filmmaking has come to embody: Well produced and well photographed, but noisy, poorly cast, ineptly directed, and dumbly plotted. Taking only minute details and occasional lines from its (superior) predecessor, Apes 2001 stars Mark Wahlberg as Capt. Leo Davidson, a cocky astronaut working on a space station with a bunch of genetically engineered chimps. Although he feels the animals shouldn't be flying spaceships if humans are available, when one is sent out into a storm and goes off the radar Leo chases after the animal but ends up sucked into some sort of Trek-ish black hole, which causes his ship to crash-land on the nearest planet, only to be captured by walkin', talkin', fightin' apes led by the human-hating General Thade (Tim Roth). Since the apes like having humans for pets and slaves, Davidson is to be sold off, but the human-rights-activist chimpanzee Ari (Helena Bohnam Cater) purchases him and the cute Daena (Estella Warren). Plotting escape, Davidson takes many of the humans along with Ari and her servant Krull (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) to get to freedom and hopefully a space shuttle to get off this crazy planet. Running from the apes, Davidson becomes a defiant leader for the other humanoids and is romanced by alpha females Daena and Ari, but Thade and his right-hand ape Attar (Michael Clarke Duncan) know there might be trouble and amass an army, while the humans do the same. There are some modest pleasures to be had from the cinematography and Rick Baker's make-up effects, but as realized by Tim Burton, Apes 2001 is generic, which is all the more odd as Burton usually has a strong authorial voice. Here the film is standard high-concept franchise filmmaking where one idea ("we've got apes and name-recognition") substitutes for a plot, and everything is easily made sequel- and toy-friendly. Good action films don't have to leave you with too much other than an adrenaline aftertaste, but even here that is denied as the action scenes never get to that level of excitement, putting the emphasis is on the impressive make-up. But without a story, such has no context, while the new "twist" ending tries to top or equal the original's but unfortunately is so forced that it has no relevance to anything that preceded it. Fox's two-disc Planet of the Apes offers the film in a gorgeous anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with audio in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1. Supplements include commentaries by Tim Burton, and Danny Elfman; Enhanced Viewing Mode with special bonus interviews and snippets; five expanded scenes; six featurettes; make-up, group, costume, movement, and stunt screen tests; impressive "making-of" multi-angled featurettes; HBO's "The Making of Planet of the Apes"; the "Rule the Planet" music video; teaser and theatrical trailers; six TV spots; bonus trailers; a poster art and press-kit gallery; and still galleries. Dual-DVD slimline keep-case.
—DSH

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