Planet of the Apes (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Everyone had it pegged pretty well at about two and a half stars. It's one of those movie that you can't rave about, but you can't really pan. It doesn't have much steak, but it really has a lot of sizzle.

I think you'll find the visuals imaginative and beautifully realized (Tim Burton directed), and it manages some suspense from start to finish. Some of the ape costumes and movements are uncanny, and some of the apes turn in tremendous performances, notably Tim Roth, who completely owns every scene in which he appears as General Thade. Paul Giamatti provided comic relief in a nicely defined supporting role.

The one thing that was missing was some personality from the astronaut character. Lord knows Charlton Heston is no actor, but he infused this role with a non-PC quirkiness, a kind of recognizably human passion and outrage, that made it interesting. Mark Wahlberg, on the other hand, makes his character exactly like a real astronaut. That may be some solid performing, but real astronauts, with their dry tones and emotionless professional reactions to everything, don't make for very interesting popcorn movies.



DVD info from Amazon.

  • 2 disks

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1

  • Full-length director commentary

  • full length composer commentary

  • six documentaries

  • five extended scenes and multi-angle scenes

  • HBO "making of"

In fact, all the humans were boring. The apes were the only interesting characters, and they weren't very sympathetic, so the film doesn't really invite you to react from the gut in the manner of the first one. Who should you identify with? Unlike the earlier effort of the same name, this one involves humans who speak more than Kathie Lee, and who the apes acknowledge to be more ingenious, but are simply being held down because they are far weaker and slower and smaller. By having all the humans speak English, the movie lost the sense of isolation that Heston presented, and we sympathized with, in the first one. 

Don't expect any profound revelations, either. It's a popcorn movie, and not really one for the ages, but I enjoyed it in a summer blockbuster sense.

Frankly, though, I don't have the slightest idea what the final twist ending meant. There are two "surprises" at the end. The first made complete logical sense to explain the development of apes and humans on that planet. The second involved a return to earth or counter-earth or something, and was tacked on just to give the whole movie a Twilight Zone irony that was not unlike the irony at the end of the first version of Planet of the Apes. I've read dozens of different explanations for this ending on the geekboy sites, and they all involve - "well, what if this ... and this ... and then ... and counter-earth ... and time-travel ... and blah, blah".  The ending does not follow from the rest of the movie, nor tie it all together. In other words, it would require another complete movie to cover the explanation. Coming soon to a theater near you.

In addition, every single person who saw the movie has his own interpretation of the ending. Maybe that is a good thing. At least it got people talking about the film.

This DVD has more features than any I've seen recently. In fact, it includes far more than I would even care to know about this movie. You'd really have to be a fan to take it all in. 

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two and a half stars. Ebert 2.5/4, Berardinelli 2.5/4, BBC 3/5, Apollo 56/100.

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 45% positive reviews, only 33% from the inner circle

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.3, Apollo users 41/100 
  • With their dollars ... it took in $179 million domestic gross, but was produced for $100 million, and also had a massive advertising budget. It was popular with theater owners, but the studios are still waiting to make money on their half of the gross. They will profit after all revenue sources are tapped. The film burned itself out early, after a $65 million opening weekend.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. Solid genre offering for the hardcore fantasy/SF audience.

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