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Planet of the Apes(2001)
After a spectacular crash-landing on an uncharted planet, brash astronaut Leo Davidson finds himself trapped in a savage world where talking apes dominate the human race. Desperate to find a way home, Leo must evade the invincible gorilla army led by ruthless General Thade and his most trusted warrior, Attar. Now the pulse-pounding race is on to reach a sacred temple that may hold the shocking secrets of mankind's past - and the last hope for its salvation!
For more about Planet of the Apes and the Planet of the Apes Blu-ray release, see Planet of the Apes Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on December 5, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Director: Tim Burton
Writers: William Broyles, Jr., Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Clarke Duncan, Kris Kristofferson, Estella Warren
» See full cast & crew
Planet of the Apes Blu-ray Review
Tim Burton's re-imagining of a classic fails to live up to potential.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, December 5, 2008
Take your stinking hands off me you damn dirty human!
The remake bug bit 20th Century Fox earlier this decade when the studio dug into its vault and commissioned a re-imaging of one of its landmark films, 1968's Planet of the Apes. Hailed as one of the more original and influential films of its time and still today a popular hit and staple of home video, Planet of the Apes is a film that didn't necessarily need another version, but the story certainly lends itself well to a potentially great big-budget, slickly-produced re-imagining. The ingredients are all in place for a fabulous movie. This take on the classic boasted of tried-and-true source material, a visionary director in Tim Burton (The Nightmare Before Christmas), and an all-star cast, but something happened along the way, for the end result is certainly not what fans, nor likely the studio, envisioned. The re-imaging of The Planet of the Apes is not necessarily a terrible film, it just doesn't do justice to the original classic. It tries too hard to distinguish itself and to create an individual identity that shares with its predecessor only a name and a basic theme, eschewing much of what the original a classic, particularly the overt social commentary. The end result is a film that does well as passable entertainment but falls short of being a worthy addition into the Apes canon.
In an opening reminiscent of an episode of "Star Trek," viewers are taken aboard the Oberon, a space station housing Air Force scientists. When they encounter an electromagnetic storm, a space chimp named Pericles is sent out to explore the phenomena in a small pod craft. When he vanishes from the station's scopes, Captain Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg, Max Payne) disobeys orders, enters a pod, and commences a search for his simian friend. Davidson is soon sucked into the storm, which appears to be some sort of temporal anomaly, and is pulled thousands of years into the future, according to his pod's readings. Before he can regain his bearings, he finds himself in the midst of a pack of humans, involved in a fast-paced hunt, and on the run from militaristic apes in uniforms. The apes capture Davidson and many other humans. Soon these prisoners find themselves in a thriving ape city, filled with talking, intelligent simians. The apes use humans for slaves, so that soon, Davidson, along with a frightened human female named Daena, (Estella Warren, The Cooler), are sold to Ari (Helena Bonham Carter, (Helena Bonham Carter, Sweeney Todd), a female ape sympathetic to humans. Davidson escapes his cage, and is accompanied by a small band of humans and sympathetic apes, including Ari. Militant ape General Thade (Tim Roth, The Incredible Hulk) and his most trusted confidant Attar (Michael Clarke Duncan, Daredevil) come to the realization that Davidson is more than a simple, dumbed-down human and set out to destroy him and all his kind before it's too late.
This 2001 re-imagining of Planet of the Apes features a far slicker production than any of the five classic films, but does a modern look, updated soundtrack, an all-star cast, and a talented director necessarily place this film on the level, or even in the same league, as its famous predecessor? The answer, unfortunately, is no. Planet of the Apes is a fine film in its own right, better-than-competently crafted and featuring some fine performances and a rather unique visual style. The sets throughout the film are far superior to any of those seen in the previous Apes films, looking more lived-in, practical, diverse, and up-to-date for what amounts to a fairly advanced society of intelligent simians. However, the original Planet of the Apes was not only about style, though the film did introduce groundbreaking makeup effects that are improved on in this film. The original features, and thrives on, substance over style. Tim Burton is a director who does not lack substance in his films, but he is best known for his unique sense of style, and deservedly so. Style is not a hinderance to a film such as this one; if anything, it is a benefit, but the film definitely lacks in substance, and the style, therefore, comes across as somewhat superfluous in the absence of thematic meaning.
Where the 2001 edition of Planet of the Apes comes close to equalling the original is through its strong ensemble cast. While the performances from the cast may not recall those of Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, or Kim Hunter, the all-star cast assembled for this take on Planet of the Apes is impressive. Mark Wahlberg makes for a fine action hero in the role of Davidson, the lead character and updated take on Heston's portrayal of Taylor as seen in Planet of the Apes. Michael Clarke Duncan, Helena Bonham Carter, Kris Kristofferson (Blade), David Warner (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country), and Paul Giamatti (Shoot 'Em Up), deliver above-average performances, but it is the work of veteran Tim Roth that stands above the crowd. Roth, one of the finer actors working in Hollywood today, captures the essence of a warlike gorilla general better than any of his predecessors in the older Apes films. His attitude, physical representation of the character, and piercing, cold, dastardly eyes define the character remarkably well, and he is every bit the representation of the sinister, evil character the script portrays him to be.
Planet of the Apes is most interesting when compared to its 1968 predecessor, and the film features two major plot differences that differentiates it form the original. The first, and less crucial of the two, is that here there is no film time spent on exploring the planet, featuring Davidson wondering what is going on or where or when he is. This reincarnation of Planet of the Apes moves virtually straight from the crash sequence to the introductions of both the apes and the humans during a tense hunt sequence. The sense of confusion, internal chaos, and wonder at the new world was part of what made the first film so good, seen through the eyes of the astronauts and conveyed to audiences both through the film's impressive visuals and the fine performances of the three surviving astronauts. With three stranded astronauts to work with in the original rather than just one here, this omission makes some sense in the context of the film and with regard to the importance of maintaining a good pace. Still, it sacrifices much of the shock and build-up of the original. The other drastic difference is that here, all humans poses the ability to speak, a trait removed from the human condition in the first two of the previous Apes films, this film sacrificing what was not only a critical plot point in the first film but, frankly, the driving force behind the film and the series. In the Heston film, it was Taylor's ability to speak, and his demonstration of a high level of intelligence, that turned simian society on its head.
Planet of the Apes Blu-ray, Video Quality
Planet of the Apes takes users back in time to when Fox still provided Blu-ray content utilizing the MPEG-2 codec. Presented in 1080p high definition and presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Planet of the Apes makes for a decent, but far from spectacular, Blu-ray image. The image leans to the dull side of the spectrum, with little in the way of fine detail or clarity throughout. The white interior of the station looks very pale and underwhelming, not nearly as sharp and crisp as expected. The image is also fairly soft in many shots, with numerous background and foreground objects never appearing very well defined. Blacks hold up only moderately well, appearing a very dark shade of gray, and also including the most abundant noise as seen in the image. Many dark objects seem to take on a purple tone which gives select shots an odd sheen. Grain is present over the image and is noticeable throughout, but is never a distraction to the overall presentation. Rather, it adds a nice film-like appearance to the disc. Fine detail is minimal. Even the film's more elaborate shots, like a dinner table scene in chapter 10, never reveal good, sharp, detail or textures. Only close-ups of faces, particularly those of the elaborate ape makeup, feature high levels texture and detail. Flesh tones are neither strong nor poor. Planet of the Apes makes for a decent high definition experience, but viewers accustomed to the finer transfers on the market will certainly be disappointed by the overall quality of this disc compared to the best transfers currently available.
Planet of the Apes Blu-ray, Audio Quality
As usual for a Fox title, Planet of the Apes crashes onto Blu-ray with a powerful DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Danny Elfman's (The Kingdom) score over the opening credits features a fine, bass-rich, tribal sound which flows through entire soundstage nicely, solidified in the front but with palpable support from the rears and the subwoofer. This track features excellent imagining and directionality as sound flows naturally across all the speakers, matching precisely with the imagery on-screen. Bass is often thunderous and the rear channel presence is engaging. The sequence in chapter four, as Davidson chases after the pod in which Pericles disappears, and then subsequently disappears and crashes onto the planet himself, features virtually incessant surround use and bass that rumbles the foundation. Much of the same can be expected of the rest of the track as it features a nonstop sonic assault during the numerous action sequences. Topping off a very good soundtrack is decent ambience spread throughout the film and effortless dialogue reproduction.
Planet of the Apes Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Planet of the Apes offers viewers only one extra of substance, a commentary track with director Tim Burton. This easygoing commentary features the laid-back director discussing the origins of his involvement in the project, his reluctance to "remake" the film but rather give it its own visual style and story, his memories of the original series, the casting, the general look and effects of the film, and more. Burton fans, as well as those die hard Apes fans looking for more insight into this somewhat controversial film will want to give this track a listen. Also included are 1080p trailers for Planet of the Apes, Behind Enemy Lines, Ice Age, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Planet of the Apes Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Perhaps were this film a new idea and not a re-telling of a classic, it would have worked better and received more widespread acceptance and critical acclaim. As it stands, the film is fine for what it is, perhaps something of a letdown considering the classic nature of the tale and the high level of talent involved in the project. Planet of the Apes is a decent movie taken at face value, perhaps best watched when the memories of the original, and superior, Charlton Heston version have become but a blur to the imagination after an extended period of time in between viewings. 20th Century Fox's Blu-ray release of Planet of the Apes is a product from the earlier days of the format and utilizes an older video codec, but nevertheless offers a decent Blu-ray experience. The picture quality, while passable, pales next to the best available today, but the lossless soundtrack remains one of high quality. Fans of the film will be disappointed with the skimpy selection of extras, but if the rumors of a remake of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes hold true, no doubt the studio will see fit to release a (hopefully) remastered special edition to coincide with the theatrical or home video release of that film years from now. In the meantime, this edition of Planet of the Apes is best enjoyed as a rental.
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