Planet of the Apes

Planet of the Apes is a cult film. The numerous references to it in The Simpsons (which is a cult TV show) alone qualify it as such, but the original film, based on the novel Monkey Planet by Pierre Boulle and released in 1968, has also spawned four sequels and two television series. Tim Burton's revamping of the classic is a typically interesting and dark look at the complex consequences of small actions.

Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg) is an astronaut on a space station itching to explore a newly discovered wormhole, but manned flights are not permitted by his commanding officer. Instead, Pericles, a genetically-enhanced chimpanzee, is sent to explore the anomaly. When Pericles disappears, Davidson defies orders and goes after it and crash lands on a planet where apes are at the top of the food chain and humans function as their slaves.

Davidson eventually discovers that he is responsible for such a situation, since the spaceship carrying a bunch of genetically and otherwise enhanced primates also crash landed on the same planet while searching for him, except that it was an event that occurred in the past. This secret has been guarded by General Thade (Tim Roth), who desires to exterminate all humans and rule the planet with an iron hand. The primates progress to create primitive societies while the humans are held in check. However, considering that humanity itself is little better than the other animal species, the primates aren't exemplary in their behaviour and are unable to shed their primitive trappings.

There are three distinct spatio-temporal locations in the film: Earth in the year 2029 where Davidson begins his journey; the planet Davidson crash lands on in the future; and an Earth to which Davidson returns. The movie portrays them as distinct from each other, though it could be readily interpreted as being the same: i.e., when Davidson's mother ship first goes into the wormhole, it ends up in a past earth leading to a completely different kind of evolution (and thereby wiping out the existence of the current Earth---paradox accepted) ultimately leading to the planet of the apes, and Davidson simply "returns" to a future earth where he discovers his fight has been vain (this would be colinear with the vision of the original film).

There's no denying that whatever Tim Burton does, it has his clear trademark look and feel about it, and it is invariably interesting. The movie here is less intellectual than the original film (a general trend observed as cleverness in effects substitute for originality in ideas---the one exception I can think of to this is The Outer Limits series).

The acting is quite good: Mark Wahlberg does a decent job though it is the monkeys that carry the film. Rick Baker deserves kudos for the makeup. The set design and atmosphere are incredible. The sound track by Danny Elfman is excellent as usual.

The movie ends in the style of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits and is different from the ending observed in the original (which I thought made more sense since that implies the two Earths are one and the same). Catch this one on the big screen.

Movie ramblings || Ram Samudrala ||