Planet of the Apes (2001)

planet of the apes poster 2001 movie tim burton
4.0 Overall Score
Story: 4/10
Acting: 4/10
Visuals: 4/10

Some decent ape effects

Bad sets, bad script, poor acting

Movie Info

Movie Name: Planet of the Apes

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Genre(s): Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s): July 27, 2001

MPAA Rating: PG-13

planet of the apes helena bonham cater mark walberg

Help me get out of here…you’re a better actor

Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg) pursues a trained chimpanzee named Pericles into an electric storm in space and finds himself transported to a strange world ruled by apes where humans are subservient.  Encountering a tribe led by Karubi (Kris Kristofferson), Leo is taken to the Ape City where he is sold into slavery by Limbo (Paul Giamatti).  As General Thade (Tim Roth) tries to rally the apes to exterminate humans once and for all his love Ari (Helena Bonham Carter) is leading Leo and a small group of humans to what could be the cradle of the ape civilization.

Directed by Tim Burton, Planet of the Apes is an action-adventure science-fiction movie.  The movie is a retelling of Pierre Boulle’s 1963 novel while combining aspects of the original Planet of the Apes film series which began in 1968.  The film was met with negative reviews and received Razzies for Worst Supporting Actor (Charlton Heston along with Cats & Dogs and Town & Country), Worst Supporting Actress (Estelle Warren along with Driven), and Worst Remake or Sequel.

planet of the apes orangutan limbo paul giamatti tim roth thade

Orangutans aren’t in charge here, mate

I love Planet of the Apes and up until Planet of the Apes, Burton had been rather solid.  I was really looking forward to the movie…and was massively disappointed.  Due to aspects of the script, a *****spoiler alert***** is in effect for the rest of the review.

The story is all over the place.  I admire that it is not a remake, but a new story on a new planet.  The movie instead has a harder push toward the idea of inequality which was an aspect of the original story but is pushed harder here.  The humans can speak and are considered beneath the apes.  This is not a bad take, but it also makes Leo’s arrival less significant.  If everyone can talk, Leo is not special.  The movie also skirts issues of evolution and religion which could have been an area of real exploration.

Cited as a major problem by most critics and fans is the ending.  Walberg leaves the Planet of the Apes, heads through the temporal cloud again, and crashes to Earth…where he discovers Thade is considered the savior of apes who have overtaken the Earth.  A sequel to the film had been planned in which the ending would have been explained, but the sequel never manifested.  The theory is that Thade managed to leave after Leo but ended up farther in the past (much like Leo’s ship which followed him ended up farther in the past).  Instead, you get an almost obtuse, goofball ending that is more enraging than clever…and the ending was something that the original The Planet of the Apes was known for.

planet of the apes thade father charlton heston tim roth

Roth and Heston didn’t agree on gun politics making this scene even more difficult

The cast for the movie is so-so.  I have never been much of a Walberg fan (he’s ok when playing characters that are not too bright and Leo is somewhat intelligent).  Tim Roth does make a terrifying Thade while Paul Giamatti is a good skeevy orangutan.  Helena Bonham Carter works as the sympathetic Ari who does still see the humans as almost pet-like despite her actions.  The two gorillas played by Michael Clarke Duncan and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa play nice opposing chess pieces.  Kris Kristofferson really does not have much of a role and Estalla Warren despite being able to talk is more generic than Nova from the original movie (Linda Harrison who played Nova appears in the film as a human).  The movie also features small roles by Burton’s then girlfriend and regular Lisa Marie (who he left for Helena Bonham Carter), David Warner, and an uncredited role by original Planet of the Apes star Charlton Heston.

planet of the apes ending lincoln memorial thade

…and the ending that made everyone said “Huh?”

What cannot be criticized in the movie is the special effects which makes the fact the movie’s plot was bad even worse.  The designs on the apes are great and the way they utilize both their animal abilities and humanistic abilities feels like a big step up from the original movie.  The sets however are not so good and instead of the open world of the original film, they feel claustrophobic and dark.

Though some of the sequels to the original film were worse, this Planet of the Apes might be my least favorite entry simply due to the fact it was such a disappointment.  Everyone involved was let down by an average movie when it should have been a great movie.  The film was in development hell for years and this is what came out of it…a dull mess.  Fortunately, this Planet of the Apes was shelved and the superior Rise of the Planet of the Apes was released in 2011 to relaunch the series again.

Related Links:

Planet of the Apes (1968)

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)

Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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