Monkey Business

A planet run by monkeys? Sounds familiar.

I have to say, I found "Planet Of The Apes" disappointing.

This is not to say that Tim Burton's remake of the classic Pierre Boulle novel is bad. Far from it. However, give the hype that preceded it, and Burton's own reputation for interesting twists on old tales ("The Nightmare Before Christmas", "Sleepy Hollow"), I found it far more insubstantial than I had anticipated.

In case you haven't read the book, "Planet Of The Apes" is a classic sci-fi story - a lone space pilot (Mark Wahlberg) finds himself on a mysterious planet ruled by apes, and proceeds to lead the enslaved humans in a revolt against their furry masters. Along the way, he meets a cast of interesting and unusual characters: Ari (Helena Bonham Carter), an ape with a soft spot for humans; Daena (Estella Warren), a strong-willed, independent woman who refuses to be cowed by the apes; and General Thade (Tim Roth), a deliciously power-hungry ape with a taste for violence.

Given the storyline, you'd think it would be easy enough for the cast to do a good job. Sadly, they don't, turning in performances that are downright bad. Wahlberg, in particular, doesn't come even close to the space crusader imagined by Boulle - he's wooden and stilted, appearing unable to even muster limited interest in the proceedings around him. Helena Bonham Carter, usually a tremendous actress, has her skills limited by her role as a soft-hearted ape, and the only performance worth the ticket price is the one turned in by Tim Roth as the vicious Thade.

Burton's own vision seems lacking too - gone are the wild and wonderful splashes of imagination that made "Sleepy Hollow" and "The Nightmare Before Christmas" such a joy to watch. This effort is dark and depressing, with only a few glimpses of his prodigious talent - the ape army, the initial encounter between the apes and the pilot, and the surprising ending.

What am I trying to say? "Planet Of The Apes" does have its moments; however, they're so few and far between that you really need to be looking for them, and Burton himself seems to have taken a conservative route in this adaptation. Personally, I wish he hadn't.

This article was first published on 12 Sep 2001.