2001's "Planet of the Apes" Will Always Be My Favorite of the Franchise

Updated on April 3, 2019
Disastrous Grape profile image

Ash has a bachelor's in English Lit, loves analyzing fiction, and is dorkily obsessed with books, film, and television.

2001's Planet of the Apes was a science fiction film based on the original classic film of the same name and also based on the book of the same name by Pierre Boulle. It was the first reboot to the film franchise, was directed by Tim Burton, and starred such greats as Helena Bonham Carter, Micheal Clarke Duncan, Tim Roth, and Paul Giamatti.

It sounds like blasphemy, I know, but Tim Burton's take on the Planet of the Apes franchise will probably always be my favorite, even over the classics. I feel it was seriously underrated and deserved more applause for its creativity, its story, and its depiction of ape society.

This is coming from someone who grew up gleefully watching the original classic films with Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, and Kim Hunter. As a nerd from the womb, I have many happy memories of watching the classics on tv, my all-time favorites being Planet of the Apes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, and Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.

As I grew up, however, it became more difficult to watch the classics once I began to understand that they were little more than the feverish nightmares of racists who were afraid of black people coming into power.

Using apes as an allegory for black people will never not be racist.

It also became difficult to keep looking at the films considering how sexist the first one was. Between the only female crewmate, Stewart, being referred to as a sex object by Taylor and Nova's depiction as an ever silent and yet ever sexy cavewoman with her boobs hanging out, I just couldn't deal. I had to stop looking at the first film.

Sometimes I still look at my other favorites, such as "Escape" or "Conquest," but the racism allegory still bothers me.

I'm too old to tolerate this shit from my entertainment anymore.

Source

You're probably wondering why I don't enjoy the 2011 reboot of the franchise. I mean, it was more about animal rights and less about racism, which was nice. But I disliked it for several reasons.

The first reason? I thought it was boring.

The second reason? I kind of hate CGI. Having grown up in the 80s where people actually wore costumes, I would rather see actors in monkey suits every time. The CGI kills the movie for me.

The third reason? I just couldn't get into the story. The Planet of the Apes franchise has a peculiar habit of signing male leads who can't act or just don't draw the audience in much. Charlton Heston, Mark Wahlberg, and James Franco were the male leads across the franchise, but they weren't charismatic enough to make anyone give a shit about their characters.

Charlton was easily the most -- erm -- "talented" of the three, but even he couldn't make anyone care about Taylor. Part of it was probably the fact that he hated making the Planet of the Apes films and got out as soon as he could by begging to have his character killed: his heart wasn't in it.

With all this in mind, I recently came to the conclusion that Tim Burton's take on the franchise is actually my favorite.

Here's why.

No CGI

Source

Again, I really, really do not like like CGI. In fact, most of the movies I review here do not use it or else don't rely on it heavily (meaning they are at least thirty to twenty years old).

To be clear, I don't hate CGI in general. I hate bad CGI. Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings franchise, for instance, did CGI well with characters like Gollum or the ents or beautiful scenes such as Galadriel's temptation in the first film (Come on! It was good for its time!). It's just that sometimes filmmakers go overboard with CGI, and if it doesn't look real enough, it can get really annoying.

I've never seen CGI pull off realistic animals, so you can imagine why I would be against using it in a Planet of the Apes film.

Apparently, Tim Burton once shared my tastes, because he insisted that the actors wear prosthetic makeup and that the movie not rely on CGI.

The end result was an amazing aesthetic, a beautiful fantasy world where the ape people actually looked like ape people and not cartoony images.

Unfortunately, Tim Burton fell victim to the overuse of CGI later in his career with films like Disney's live action remake of Dumbo.

Source

I will always appreciate how amazing the makeup was in this film. For the longest time, I didn't even realize Helena Bonham Carter was Ari or that Tim Roth was General Thade. They embodied their characters so well that I just saw the makeup -- the characters -- and not them.

No Problematic Sh*t

Source

There was no problematic shit. Meaning, I didn't have to wait tensely for the narrative to do something racist or sexist or colorist or homophobic. The nice thing about Tim Burton films is that he can entertain people without being a dick.

Like take the fact that there were no racist attributes assigned to the apes based on skin color. I always hated how the dark skin gorillas in the original classic films were depicted as especially violent and dumb because they were dark while the chimpanzees and the orangutans were depicted as peaceful and more intelligent because they had lighter skin.

Amazing that, on top of being sexist and racist, the original films were colorist as well.

In real life, gorillas are actually the gentle, peaceful ones while chimpanzees have been known to wage actual "tribal" wars on each other -- usually the males competing for female attention.

Tim Burton's film has none of that. Attributes were not distributed to the apes based on skin color but based on their individual personalities. Ari, a chimpanzee, was kind and cared about social progress, while General Thade -- another chimpanzee -- was conservative, cruel, and her exact opposite.

Meanwhile, not all the orangutans were the same. In the original classics, they were all presented with the exact same characteristics, but in Tim Burton's film, they have more nuance. Senator Nado (Glenn Shadix), for instance, is wildly different from Limbo (Paul Giamatti), a slave trader.

And General Krull (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), a disgraced gorilla soldier, is the opposite -- even the enemy of -- Colonel Attar (Micheal Clarke Duncan), a deeply religious gorilla soldier.

In other words, the apes were not assigned personality based on species (in a narrow-minded, stereotypical, or bigoted way). They were allowed to be good and bad, smart and dumb, cynical or deeply spiritual.

The apes were allowed to be individuals.

No Sequels

Source

And lastly, I loved the story.

I know that sounds odd to hear given that the story of 2001's Planet of the Apes is probably the weakest part of it, but I actually enjoyed it greatly -- mostly because it was a concise, one-package deal that neatly wrapped itself up.

I loved how the film explored ape society, religion, politics, and culture. I loved the great care given to their architecture and the beautiful rain forest aesthetic. When looking at the film, it's obvious a lot of thought went into that, and I appreciate it. I suppose it has to do with the fact that I'm a writer and a gamer nerd, so I appreciate good world building in a fictional setting.

I'm also pretty big on movies about time travel, and the leading male character, Leo (Mark Wahlberg), travels through time, trying to save his monkey, Pericles. When his ship, the Oberon, tries to follow and save him, they become stranded on the planet Ashlar, where the apes escape the lab and take over.

In other words, Leo was the cause of his own misery (and somehow, I love that).

This is a theme that is repeated throughout the film. Everything Leo does -- every stupid mistake -- brings suffering upon him and anyone who gets involved with him. Other humans follow him because they think he's some kind of savoir, when in reality, all he does is get them killed -- just as he got their ancestors, the crew of the Oberon, killed.

Leo is a damn curse on everyone. He is not a hero, and yet, everyone else insists on seeing him as one. Both the female leads, the chimpanzee, Ari (Helena Bonham Carter), and the human slave, Daena (Estella Warren), are in love with Leo (for some unfathomable reason).

Leo rejects the affections of everyone. He awkwardly avoids Ari's flirting, avoids Daena, tells the other humans to stop following him, and seems determined to just get back to the Oberon and to hell with everything. By the end of the film, once he discovers that everything is his fault, he's still determined to try going back in time -- as if this would undo the paradox (That never works. Clearly, Leo is not a science fiction fan).

Instead, he winds up moving forward in time.

Source

Here's my take on the ending.

Leo went forward in time and wound up on Earth, only to discover Thade had arrived there before him and his family had taken over. The inscription behind the Thade statue says that he "saved the planet" for the apes -- meaning, he not only freed the apes of Earth (which has racist connotations given the obvious Abe Lincoln comparison -- but still less racist than the classics) but also ruined the ape-human alliance that Leo managed to secure on Ashlar.

Pretty grim.

So essentially, what Leo did by impulsively rushing off to "save his monkey" in the opening of the film was not something he could undo just by going back through the time warp. The time warp could only take him one way -- forward.

The first time Leo entered it, it carried him forward through time, showing him the result of the Oberon having pursued him to Ashlar. When he entered the time warp a second time, it sent him forward again, showing him the end result of him having left Thade alive. Had Leo stayed behind as Ari suggested, perhaps Thade wouldn't have succeeded in using human technology to take over both Ashlar and Earth.

Leo is a screw up, start to finish. It would have been interesting to see how his character dealt with the consequences of his impulsive actions in a sequel, but I can honestly say I'm grateful this reboot did not spin off into a bunch of sequels like the 2011 one did.

Source

First, Mark Wahlberg can't act. He spends most of the film looking confused, angry, or some variation of the two, but never comes close to doing anything that can be remotely called acting. If it wasn't for the unquestionable talents of Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Roth, this movie would have been sunk.

So a sequel would only have worked without Mark Wahlberg. But given the franchise's penchant for casting talentless male leads, I doubt it would have mattered who they chose to play Leo.

In the end, the lack of sequels was a mercy. Yes, the story was weak, and even Tim Burton says the ending was supposed to be confusing and ambiguous, but I still enjoyed the film immensely for what it was.

For me, that's all that matters.

Planet Of The Apes 2001
Planet Of The Apes 2001

Own the best film in the franchise!

 

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Ash

    Comments

    Submit a Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://reelrundown.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)