Planet Of The Apes

The 2001 remake. Ugh. I’d heard it was a stinker, but Tim Burton’s made some great movies, so I decided to watch it anyway.

It seems from the commentary that Burton was mainly interested in the aesthetics of having a bunch of great actors dressed up in really good ape suits. He does a great job of coming up with a convincing fantasy world of semi-civilized apes; it’s the SF pieces and the plot that make this a stinker. An infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number of typewriters probably could have come up with a script that made more sense.

So our hero (in the least convincing spacesuit I’ve seen since the original Buck Rogers) travels through an electrical storm somewhere near Saturn, and ends up a few hundred years into the future. We can tell this because his spacecraft has a clock that shows the year, and which somehow measures that he’s being whisked through time.

The spaceship emerges from the storm near a planet, and crashes in a lake; the hero wanders into a jungle and encounters a world of intelligent apes, and is captured. He makes friends with a female ape, escapes with her and some humans and a few other apes, and a lengthy chase ensues.

They make it to where the hero’s spacesuit crashed. He retrieves the survival equipment which he apparently hadn’t felt was worth retrieving when he crashed. The radio receiver locks on to a rescue ship, or so he thinks.

They follow the signal through more conflict and chases, and find the skeletal ruins of the space station the hero launched from. The command center is nevertheless intact and fully functional and still recognizes his handprint. He plays back the log, and discovers the space station went after him, crashed on the planet, and the genetically enhanced smart chimps they were using to test pilot the spacecraft (yeah, right) turned vicious and attacked. It’s these apes which became the ape civilization he’s now in, hundreds of years later.

So far, so good. A bunch of stuff happens which we needn’t go into, and eventually the hero leaves the ape planet in a spacecraft to return through the electrical storm back to his own time. The spacecraft clock obligingly winds backwards to 2036 or so.

Arriving back in the past the hero skips Saturn and the space station, and heads straight for Earth. (Why? We’ll probably never know.) His spacecraft is going haywire from the electrical storm, so he chooses Washington, DC as a sensible emergency landing place. (Sure, why not?) He crashes from orbit onto the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, but emerges completely unhurt from the smouldering wreckage. (Cap’n, the audience’s disbelief cannae be suspended much longer!)

But it’s not the Lincoln Memorial! Instead, it’s a memorial to… the ape bad guy from several hundred years in the future. The audience sits and goes “Huh?” as the credits roll.

So if you want to see a bunch of actors in ape costumes in a lush and believable fantasy world, this is the movie to watch. If you want a plot that makes sense, you’d be better off with the original, sad to say.