Planet of the Apes Review

       * * * out of * * * * stars
       Directed by: Tim Burton
       Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena
       Bonham Carter, Paul Giamatti
       Written by: William Broyles Jr., Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal
       Rated: PG-13 for some sequences of action/violence
       Running Time: 2 hr : 0 min
       Scripture References: 1 John 1:3, John 20:25-31, 2 Peter 1:16

        "Rule the planet" is the tagline for the 2001 remake of the classic sci-fi tale "Planet of the Apes". The "planet" may be overreaching, but Apes will surely rule the box office this weekend. It may even be the summer blockbuster many thought would never come.

       In a tight collaborative effort, director Tim Burton ("Batman") and company have managed to retell a familiar story, pay homage to the original film and yet infuse their movie with enough originality that it stands completely on its own merit.

       Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg, "Three Kings") is a hot shot space jockey who spends most of his days training monkeys for the jobs deemed too dangerous for human pilots. Of course, the one time he disobeys orders and flies off to personally investigate a electromagnetic storm, he crash lands on a planet where apes are the dominant species.

       Led by General Thade (Tim Roth, "Rob Roy"), an aggressive militaristic chimp, the simian society is one that keeps the human community in a hunted, caged, or domesticated role. Leo is befriended by Ari (Helena Bonham Carter, "Fight Club") a chimp who is a stalwart "human rights" activist. With her assistance, Leo is able to fight for his survival and become a rallying symbol for the human race.

       Belonging to that human race is Daena (Estella Warren, "Driven") and her father Karubi (Kris Kristopherson, "Blade") who join Leo in his fight against their oppressors.

       Tim Burton has assembled quite a team of award-winning artists, all of whom have made wondrous contributions to the film. Notably, make-up artist extraordinaire Rick Baker ("Men in Black") has taken the impressive designs that were seen in the 1968 original and added to them the improvements that come with the passage of time. These 2001 apes are more expressive and much more frightening in their ferocity.

       I'd have to say that the biggest visceral difference between the two films is the emphasis that Burton placed upon keeping the ape civilization on the cusp of civil behavior. Their bestiality is always just barely kept under control, only partially veiled by their verbal sophistication. The actors who played apes went to an "ape school" to study the movements and gestures of the species. The resulting effects show that the time spent in that training was rewarded handsomely.

       The one exception to the excellent characterizations which peopled (or aped) the film is the character of Limbo (Paul Giamatti, Duets), an orangutan slave trader who is served up to us as comic relief, a la Jar Jar Binks. No disrespect to Mr. Giamatti but, for this viewer, the inclusion of Limbo was just as jarring and disruptive to the movie's core as was that ill-conceived Star Wars creature.

       The original film was seen in its day as being a metaphor for ills of racial division. Burton's version also has a number of philosophical undercurrents running through it... not least of which is a religious/spiritual subtext, which is developed into a major theme.

       The ape culture is depicted as worshipping the Christ-like figure, Semos, who was the first of their kind and who, they believe, will one day return. This belief of theirs is based on legend and tall tales handed down for millennia, which leads the movie audience to the unspoken but inevitable conclusion that today's followers of Christ do the same.

        Oddly enough, the film counters its own erroneous allusion by way of the character of Leo. As one of the characters states of him, "One day they will talk about a human who came from the stars and changed our world. Some will say it's just a fairy tale... that it was never real. But I'll know."

       Just because there are many fallacies that are presented, as "truth" does not mean that there is no truth to be had. The life of Jesus Christ is no myth and the spiritual reality of his accomplishments is no fairy tale. There may be those who may say it is a fairy tale... that it was never real. But we know.

        "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." 1 John 1:3 (KJV)

       Michael Elliott,

       For information on the topic of evolution vs. creation see "The Truth About Dinosaurs" on page 15 or go to