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Planet of the Apes (2001)



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The usually reliable director Tim Burton drops a bomb with this reworking of the classic 1968 version with Charlton Heston. This version takes the basic premise -- that apes, intelligent and literate, are the dominant species on a planet on which humans are enslaved -- and twists all the circumstances surrounding it around. At first, it was nice to see a new take on the old idea: what's the point of remaking a film if you're not going to do something new with it? The problem is that it all hinges so much on coincidence, and even that is not enough to explain everything, that it falls apart upon even the most cursory of analyses. Twice, plot points hinge on a spacecraft randomly landing in a specific location. Another plot point hinges on mechanical and electronic equipment functioning after a thousand years of neglect (there isn't so much as a cracked monitor screen).

The surprise ending to the original film is well known; here, the changed circumstances of the ape planet lead to a different surprise ending. Unlike the original's, which was satisfying (and haunting), this one is just frustrating, because it doesn't make any internal sense. It is possible to conjure up a couple of plausible (well, plausible by this movie's liberal definition) explanations, but why are we working for it? It's great when a movie makes us think; not so great when it makes us guess. Even so, I defy anyone to explain how the development of a foreign species and culture throughout centuries is so...familiar. Like I said, the whole thing falls apart upon even the most cursory of analyses.

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