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Planet of the Apes (2001)

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Helena Bonham-Carter and Tim Roth.

Rated: 12.

Story: An astronaut ventures too far into a temporal storm and crash lands on a planet where the apes are in charge and humans are kept as slaves. He attempts to phone home but ends up leading a rebellion instead.

Comments: With the postal strikes disrupting my film rentals, I decided it was time to delve around at the bottom of the hard-drive recorder and rediscover whatever was lurking there...

Along with some repeats of Top Gear, fifty-seven episodes of Pokémon and an inexplicable recording of Hole in the Wall, I found the 2001 remake of Planet of the Apes. I've been meaning to watch it for years but never entirely dared. I have fond memories of staying up late to see the original when I was a teenager and being blown away by the ending. The possibility of a new version being as good seemed remote. Nonetheless, devoid of other entertainment which I hadn't seen before and which didn't involve celebrities attempting to squeeze themselves through narrow gaps, I faced my fear and settled down to watch Helena Bonham-Carter in a chimpanzee suit...

I should probably have watched Top Gear again.

Although Planet of the Apes (2001) has its moments, it's generally a clunky mess. The first half is rather slow going in places with apes frequently arguing over the treatment of humans. This is thinly-veiled commentary on civil and animal rights in our own society but the two get a little mixed and the whole thing comes across as both moralising and shallow. (It also ignores the fact that the various different species of ape live and work together quite happily without batting an eyelid.) The pace picks up in the latter stages but it all inevitably leads to a big CGI battle and a final showdown between psycho ape (Roth) and hero human (Wahlberg).

The make-up and costumes are great, at least, and the actors do a good job of mimicking simian movements. Some dubious wire-work breaks the spell, however, as does the appearance of an actual chimpanzee - the men in costumes suddenly look like just that.

Mark Wahlberg is never convincing. To be fair, the plot and script don't help him out but he fails to convey the trauma of finding himself in such an upside-down world. The rest of the cast do OK, though.

There are a few references to the original but these are amongst the low points of the movie. Charlton Heston's cameo verges on farce and the sets in the ape city look like they've been lifted from 1960s Star Trek. Special mention has to go to the ending, which is beyond stupid. Clearly the makers wanted to come up with something to bring shock and surprise in a similar manner to the earlier version. It's certainly surprising but, unfortunately, there is no way for it to convincingly make sense. You'll remember it but for all the wrong reasons. I kind of wish I'd dozed off before reaching it and dreamt of Jeremy Clarkson in a silver jumpsuit being shoved into a swimming pool by an oncoming barrier of polystyrene.

Conclusion: You could probably make a more entertaining remake with the kids' cuddly toys and an Action Man. Planet of the Teletubbies, now there's an idea...

Explosions: A couple (and a few burning tents).
Apes: Loads.
Holes in the plot: Big enough to fit a considerable number of celebrities through.
Better than the original?: Not a chance.
Better than repeats of Top Gear?: Not really.
Better than watching a comedian, a rugby player and a weather girl get knocked into a swimming pool by a perforated wall?: Probably not...

Rating: 2/5.


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