All Ape Films Are Not Created Equal – FILM REVIEW

October 23, 2002

A local, free-paper film reviewer wrote about the newest version of Planet of the Apes and I was foolish enough to believe the reviewer’s trashing of Mark Wahlberg and the film. The reviewer said it was a clone of the original film shot by shot and word for word! My husband decided after seeing the latest version (now on cable TV in Alberta) that the reviewer must have been on drugs when he wrote it. I have to agree with the husband; these two films are almost completely opposite.

Let me say that I have a DVD copy of the original film and can recite lines from it. I was a major Roddy McDowell fan and have a small autographed card from him that I cherish. I’m sorry I never met him.

Now, let’s look at this latest rendition to see why I feel these projects are so different.

The original film won an Honorary Academy Award for Outstanding Make-up Achievement and the latest film updated these techniques. The apes are more believable and new types have been introduced. Watching actress Helena Bonham Carter writing with her ape foot is pretty cool. Jokes are cute and sparingly used. The big attack at the end shows realistic apes galloping toward our heroic team. I found myself becoming more of a fan of the newest film than I expected. I also like the lack of gory violence. Hmmm…I’m sure I heard this was a violent picture :I see that point differently!

In the original film, Charlton Heston played one astronaut in a team. For those of you who understand film lingo, the original movie had no real back-story to help us care about the main characters. The newest version quickly paints Mark Wahlberg (playing Leo) as a man under his boss’ thumb in a space ship facility. He’s in charge of training a chimpanzee. During a flight into space a freak storm snaps up the ape’s ship. Leo illegally blasts off to get the ape back, but he too is caught in the storm.

Our hero lands on a planet run by apes. That’s where the similarities tend to end between the films. In the original film the humans were mute, making Charlton Heston all the more unusual. No doubt silence was cheaper for the studio! In the new film they can talk (among them Kris Kristofferson playing Karubi) and are able to help the hero as well. There is also an Ontario born gal, Estella Warren, (playing Daena) we can all begin noticing.

In the original film “Ape Shall Never Kill Ape” was a religious commandment repeated several times to show the apes’ religion paralleled ours. In the new version one character, Academy Award nominee Michael Clarke Duncan (for Green Mile) plays Attar and speaks of their god, Semos. Semos by the way makes an appearance near the end: and is a fun film moment. Also these new apes do kill their own. Charlton Heston gets a quick cameo as General Thade’s father, playing an ape! Attar pays homage to Heston’s memorable film line, “Get your hands off me you damn dirty ape” and turns it into a slur against humans.

Academy Award winner (for Rob Roy) Tim Roth plays General Thade our film bad guy. He does it brilliantly. His dark eyes bore into the camera and his moves are strong and powerful. He portrays both powerful ape and later mourning son after his father dies.

Plots are more in keeping with our time especially with a hot performance from usually classy and quiet Helena Bonham Carter. She is a privileged ape (Ari) and works tirelessly against the poor treatment of humans. She also has the monster hots for human Leo.

And the big walk to the forbidden zone in the new film does not lead to a fallen Statue of Liberty. It leads to the space ship that Leo came from. The ship factors in nicely for the big finale.

The final scene is a lovely twist in a busy production. I won’t give it away. Suffice it to say it makes you wonder what the possible explanation is.

All of these characters take their work seriously and show us a world of apes that have come almost fully to life. Then again, years from now when effects are SO lifelike will these effects seem old, plastic and a joke? I don’t know:maybe we’ll have to stay around for the third go “?round of the planet of the apes!

And for those of you who have read my prior film review:you’ll have to start addressing me as Leonard Maltin now!

Laura Seymour first published herself, at age 8. She has since gone on to publish a cookbook for the medical condition of Candida. She is working toward her B.A. (Psyc).