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Planet of the Apes Reviews

Rick Baker's ape suits are astonishing, and the cast of Tim Burton's "reimagining" of 1968's PLANET OF THE APES works overtime to strike a balance between a civilized demeanor and fundamentally animal behavior. Unlike the first film's stiffly upright simians, these intelligent apes have retained their animal nature: They write with their feet, bare their fangs when they're angry and drop to all fours to run. But admirable and fascinating though these efforts are, the film is sorely deficient on the story front. 2029: Hotshot pilot Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg) is itching to explore a spectacular space squall. When an exploratory shuttle manned by trained chimp Pericles vanishes in the storm, Davidson defies orders and blasts off from the USAF space station Oberon. After being buffeted by various visual effects, Davidson finds himself stranded on a topsy-turvy planet where apes rule and savage humans are hunted, enslaved and kept as pets. Davidson is rescued from orangutan human-dealer Limbo (Paul Giamatti, the film's comic relief) by sympathetic chimp Ari (Helena Bonham Carter), a human-rights activist who's protected from the consequences of her unpopular position by the political standing of her father (David Warner). Ari's former suitor, hard-line homo sapiens-hater General Thade (Tim Roth, who, if monkeys had moustaches, would be twirling his) and his right-hand gorilla, Attar (Michael Clarke Duncan), have been fanning the flames of anti-human sentiment. Thade is betting that Davidson's defiant behavior will help tip the balance of popular opinion and persuade even the most soft-hearted apes to support military extermination of pesky people. Davidson wants only to get home, but finds himself cast in the role of savior to his oppressed fellow humans, including militant beauty Daena (Estella Warren). Whatever the faults of the first PLANET and its sequels, they were all about something; this film is pure, empty (if gorgeous) spectacle, and the decision to loose the tongues of the ape planet's humans (they were mute in the original) undermines the contrast that lies at the heart of the story's power: Civilized apes vs. beast-like men. The remake does toss some sops to fans, notably a fleeting cameo by Linda Harrison, the first film's mute cutie, Nova, and a pair of classic lines revisited in very different contexts. A gorilla hunter howls, "Get your stinking hands off me, you damned dirty human," and an uncredited and nearly unrecognizable Charlton Heston (thank goodness for that unmistakable voice) sputters "Damn them... Damn them all to hell!"