Planet of the Apes (2001)

It is said that as a species we are devolving into a more ignorant, violent, and generally worse version than our forbears. Even the hit music group, Devo, made it their defining mission statement for their band, and the world of cinema has certainly played with the idea. In 1968, a film shocked audiences by showing this devolution on a planetary scale, and In 2001, Tim Burton took to adapting the tale of an Ape-led society into the 21st century, in the Planet of the Apes.

There’s quite a few similarities between this remake and the Time Machine.

In the near future of 2029, Leo Davidson is a dedicated researcher aboard a space station who loves his animals, after one of his dear primate partners gets lost in a magnetic storm. Leo goes in after him and ends up almost, 2900 years on a planet called Ashlar. Here everything is backward, as Apes are speaking English, and humans are hunted and caged. Leo will have to upend simian society to get back home, but the questions of where, when, and how will cost this time-traveller dearly.

Mark Wahlberg is no stranger to world-changing apocalypses.

Whether you consider it a blessing or a curse, there are multiple similarities with the remake of the Time Machine, both modern remakes of classic 60s sci-fi, known for their themes and designs. Here, the Apes look pretty good, especially for the time, mashing both a contemporary look with the distinctive style of the original makeup. The story is mostly the same, there are more than a few cosmetic changes, such as the crash landing may have influenced ape society far more than Taylor’s voyage in the original saga. I like how Leo’s crash influenced the town’s name, a la Twelve Monkeys.

The monkey makeup still evokes the charm of the original!

Tim Burton in the directing chair is a fine choice, even though little of his trademark flourishes are as present as Mars Attacks. Yet, the cast is as Hollywood as ever. Mark Wahlberg leads as Leo and his characters are no strangers to world-changing apocalypses. A mainstay of Burton’s film, Helena Bonham Carter, also appears as Ari (and this would be the first film that the couple would meet in). Paul Giamatti is memorable as the charismatic sales-ape, Limbo, who adds some much-needed levity, especially for the younger viewers. Even cameos from Charlton Heston and Linda Harrison, although without a direct callback to the events of the original film. Speaking of, the ending of the film is a conundrum, while the cast has mixed interpretations; some see it as a sequel hook that never came and others as a more concrete end for Davidson. Either way, it is, once again, hard to compete with the ever-iconic ending shot of the original, but here Planet of the Apes leaves some interesting food for thought that can be picked at.

Limbo is a fun character, especially for younger viewers!

As someone who grew up with the original, Tim Burton’s version is an intriguing remix, where new and old ideas work together, in creating a novel experience, even if you have seen the original many times. While it would have been great to see a sequel, ultimately that would never be. Before hitting the drawing board again, a decade later, with the blockbusting trilogy, the 2001 Planet of the Apes remake showed that this planet may be big enough for both films to get along.

Estella Warren as Daena not Nova, but both Linda Harrison and Charlton Heston do make cameos.

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