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Planet of the Apes

HOW do you remake a classic that is held dear to so many?

Planet of the Apes

HOW do you remake a classic that is held dear to so many? To find out, go and see this fantastic 're-imagining' of the 1968 original, full of director Tim Burton's trademark visual flair and stylish design.

The film also features some terrific performances from the Brit contingent, and make-up effects that are so realistic it's almost frightening.

Burton has not opted for the shot-for-shot remake approach used to such little effect recently by Gus Van Sant in his pointless take on 'Psycho', instead using both Pierre Boulle's 'Monkey Planet' novel and the Charlton Heston film as inspiration.

Also gone is the surprise ending of the original; no, it's not Earth this time round, but the writers have somehow come up with an even more novel twist.

The film starts, as before, with the crash-landing on a strange planet by astronaut Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg). He is soon captured, along with a cart-load of other unfortunates, by unscrupulous slave dealer Limbo (Paul Giamatti).

Paraded through the streets of Ape City, the humans are about to be 'cleansed' (these apes consider homo sapiens to be horrible, smelly creatures) when human rights activist Ari (Helena Bonham Carter) steps in.

This lovely lady chimp, daughter of influential senator Sandar (David Warner), is mocked in monkey circles (one unpleasant little vine-swinger taunts her with cries of 'human lover') for thinking that humans are capable of intelligent thought and should be given equal rights.

Most opposed to these ideals is General Thade (Tim Roth), an avid human-hater and commander of the ape forces. He also has the hots for our Helena, more to curry favour with her dad than for her political beliefs.

Having taken Leo and wild girl Daena (Estella Warren) into her house, Ari soon finds herself helping them to escape the city and set out to find the mythical city which is said to explain the ancestry of this strange planet.

Thade is determined to stop this from happening on the advice of his ailing father (a cameo from Charlton Heston, who ironically delivers a message on the danger of guns), who warns him that the city contains a secret that could destroy ape culture.

Burton and his team have, as usual, created a fantasy world so rich and detailed that you lose yourself completely in it.

Ape city is a sprawling metropolis, full of nice little touches (an ape playing a barrel organ while a little man dances) and the ape army's uniforms are meticulously detailed.

If the film has a weak point it is the central human characters. If it's possible to be none-dimensional, Leo Davidson is. Not much is required of Wahlberg except to look puzzled, worried and angry by turns.

Former swimsuit model Estella Warren does little better, pouting her best and also looking worried, her Wonder-Bra enhanced cleavage developing more than her character does.

You suspect she is only there to divert attention away from the obvious attraction between Davidson and Ari - the sort of inter-species love that has censors grabbing at the editing scissors.

The strength of the performances of the hairier characters will utterly divert your attention away from these smooth-skinned ciphers, though.

Tim Roth is terrifying as Thade, exuding subdued menace and, literally, going ape. He pounds enemies to death mercilessly, sniffs threateningly at suspected foes and will stop at nothing to achieve his aims.

Roth's movements, learnt at an 'Ape School' before production began, are excellent and you'll forget there's a human under the costume. Amazing.

Helena Bonham Carter proves that she is an excellent actress by giving a moving performance as Ari, despite being covered in Latex. She more than makes up for the faceless Wahlberg, so you are convinced by her feelings for him (no, there's no bestiality).

Special mention, too, for Paul Giamatti, playing the comic relief to perfection, some trick considering the potential for annoyance in such roles.

The screenplay creaks a little in places, but delivers some superb ape-centric dialogue in others (witness the dinner table scene when Thade asks for a towel having come into contact with humans, and a councillor complaining that he has become too urbanised; "I haven't climbed a tree in years").

'Planet of the Apes' more than makes up for the dull, bloodless crop of blockbusters we've had to endure recently, providing action, adventure and laughs in spades, and you'll be debating the ending for a good while afterwards. A must.


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
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