Planet of the Apes (2001)

"Rule the Planet"

Reviewed by Simon Drake

Directed by Tim Burton
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter and a chimp.

Warning: Plot spoiler ahead! (Oh no my friend; the plot of this film was spoiled when they took the last reel out of the can - The Prophet)

    Maverick astronaut Leo Davidson (Wahlberg) flies into an electrical storm to save his chimp and lands on a planet populated by apes with delusions of grandeur. Before he can say 'United Nations act' he's whisked off by Monkey Eco-warrior Ari (Bonham Carter looking and acting like Janet Jackson) and is leading a band of humans in tattered clothes to fight back and regain control the planet (that may…Or may not be theirs).
    All the while General Thade (Tim Roth) is in hot pursuit with his army, has a final mano-a-monkey with Davidson and gets locked in a fish tank.
    Davidson uses the spaceship from the 2nd coming of his chimp to fly through space (in the world's shortest intergalactic flight) to land on Earth. But wait, Earth has in fact now been populated by Apes who drive cars and General Thade has been trumped up as a heroic Abraham Lincoln type character.
    Credits roll.
    Everyone goes "huh?"

What's wrong with it?

    As is always the downfall of remaking something, it is inevitably compared to the original source material (book, film, computer game…Whatever). Remaking one of the most influential (and parodied) films was always going to be a tough call. So Tim Burton (normally a master at updating unoriginal material) decided to keep the elements, while infusing it with new angles.
    But sadly it just comes across as a bit of a jumbled mess.
    Mr Burton clearly was more interested in getting the apes to act (or maybe they just had to work twice as hard under the prosthetic) at the expensive of the humans. Mark Wahlberg plods through the film unwisely losing the Chuck Heston loincloth (and half the female audiences) in favour of a pair of grey pyjamas with little or nothing to work with.
    The token Amazon bikini clad babe acts like a Canadian synchronised swimmer turned model (which she was).
    The ape/girl/boy love triangle doesn't work and seems a bit disturbing.
    And the end…What is up with the end?

What's right with it?

    The sets and design are great. But it's the monkey make up that is where the film shines. The actors are able to give the full gamut of emotion (so what was Wahlberg's excuse then?) under layers of rubber and wires.
    Tim Roth oozes menace and rage. But it's Paul Giamatti's comical slave trader who steals the show as an orang-utan that sounds like James Stewart.
    The battle scenes are suitably epic (Think Braveheart meets the Jungle book).

How bad is it really?

    I didn't hate it as much as I was expecting too. My friend's less than glowing review informed me he'd "rather watch a poo for 2 hours".
    I just found it a bit un-involving (or is that un-evolving?)

Best bit?

    Either any bit with Paul Giamatti or the crazy scene where the humans scarper through the city interrupting the ambassador's mating dance with his wife. Which involves his wife standing on the bed and 'Largin' it up. Well it works in Ibiza!

What's up with…?


Production Values - Not too shabby. Decent set designs, excellent make up, big explosions (well one followed by lots of flying apes). 5

Dialogue and performance - This is where the film falls. Tim can normally be required to get decent performances. But Mark looks a little lost (Come on act! We know you can do it!) Estella Warren is pants, although her role involves pouting and heaving bosoms. Kris Kristofferson has the mumble plot explanation role he had in Blade. The Apes fare better. Charlton Heston wheeled out for a cameo as Thade's Dad, slagging off the use of guns…(Is that right Chuck?) Also faint praise for the (not terribly) ingenious way of getting the original film's memorable lines into different contexts in this version. 12

Plot and execution - With a plot blagged from another film (which was blagged from a book) and with a director of Tim Burton's talent it is surprising that the film is so disjointed. But it is. All the interesting social/political observations and commentaries from the original seems to have been lost in favour of trying to find new and unusual ways for Thade to mount his horse (And damn did they miss the obvious! Ooh Matron!) 15

Randomness - Oh yes sir! Chimps packing heat. Apes havin' it large. Monkey's in the White-house (Oh there's the social/political commentary!). 17

Waste of potential - Tim Burton. Going sci-fi. Sounds good…Oh waits he's remaking a classic, without Johnny Depp…Oh wait, I'm now not that surprised that it sucks…Or am I? The ending? I'm confused…Help? 10 (I think?)

Overall 59%


The Specials (2000)

"Not as good as regular superheroes, but slightly better than you."

Directed by Craig Mazin
Starring Rob Lowe and Jamie Kennedy

    The Specials are the sixth or seventh greatest superteam on the planet. They have just landed a new team member, Nightbird (Jordan Ladd), and been honoured with a set of action figures. At the launch party for the action figures, the team's mind-numbingly earnest leader, The Great Strobe (Thomas Hayden Church), discovers his wife, Ms. Indestructible (Paget Brewster), is having an affair with their long-time friend and coworker, the Weevil (Lowe), and the toys are revealed to be muscle-bound - and in some cases big-breasted - caricatures with deadly weapons, with two team members transformed into villains and one made black to make the team more multiracial. Strobe announces the break-up of the team, and the other members mope about for the evening. In the morning, they defiantly assemble at their suburban HQ - all save the Weevil, who sells out and joins top-flight superteam, The Crusaders - and the fight against injustice goes on.

    And that's about it really. There's no overall plot, and no resolution. The whole thing is tied together with documentary-style interview segments with the various specials.

What's wrong with it?

    It's a superhero film with no plot; like a middle-period Woody Allen film with dodgy costumes. The team is twelve strong - and one of the team members, Eight, is one person with eight bodies, so the screen time given to each is somewhat limited. While the film contains many good ideas, they are a little lost without a real plot framework, and however many scenes work very well, the film does not really go anywhere or do anything. The Specials came out the year after Mystery Men and the latter is by far the slicker, tighter film.

What's right with it?

    If you get over the fact that there isn't a plot, then the film contains some very good ideas. The notion of a world full of competing superteams; the top team being a pack of self-righteous media whores; superheroes dealing with everyday problems and the trials of being minor celebrities (they get asked for autographs, but Minute Man - who can become tiny at will - is constantly having his named pronounced 'Min-it' instead of 'My-newt'). While the whole does not always satisfy, there are a number of good scenes, and some very funny lines.

How bad is it really?

    By the standards of the BMM this is a classic in the mould of Casablanca. Back in the world, it's pretty silly, but far from appalling.

Best bit?

    The film doesn't really have any set pieces, but it has some very good lines. For example: Minute Man (James Gunn) asks Deadly Girl (Judy Greer) what it's like to summon demons, this being one of her powers. She replies: "They do your will and it makes you feel good about yourself. Does that make me creepy?"

What's up with...?


Production Values - Cheap, but not tacky. The costumes are mostly lame, but then they are kind of supposed to be. The superpowers at the end are a little naff, and you can see why they did not feature more, but on the other hand, recognising that limitation scores points. 8

Dialogue and performances - Variable. The script is fairly good, and often very funny, and the performances are mostly solid and unpretentious. Thomas Hayden Church is either the second coming of Bill Shatner, or puts in a splendid showing. 7

Plot and execution - The Specials loses major points on plot, since it really, really doesn't have one. That being said, the execution of the not-plot is fairly strong. 12

Randomness - Again, aside from the overall randomness of making this movie in the first place, The Specials is pretty straightforward. 5

Waste of Potential - Would this film have worked if it had an actual plot? Could we have stayed interested if we'd seen any more of their crime fighting exploits than Ms Indestructible lamping a pterodactyl in the face? Difficult to be sure, but with what it is, the film odes pretty well. 7

Overall 39%


Mean Guns (1997)

Directed by Albert Pyun
Starring...Well, it's got Christopher Lambert and Ice-T in it

    A crime boss in 'The Syndicate' (like the Mob, but multiracial apparently) gathers a whole bunch of treacherous ex-employees in a newly built prison, where they are to fight to the death. The last three surviving are to split $10,000,000 between them. As the battle rages, dubious alliances are formed and broken between the killers, until finally it comes down to a four-way face off between Lou (Lambert), Moon (Ice-T), Marcus (Michael Halsey) and accountant Cam (Deborah Van Valkenburg). Pretty much everyone dies, except Cam who gets to split with the cash and the little girl who Lou snatched from her abusive father, because his real daughter was raped; or killed; or something.

    It's never really made clear. Nor is anything else.

What's wrong with it?

    The film makes no sense. Really. Even by the BMM's standards, it's pretty bloody random. What little exposition there is is garbled, mumbled, and contradictory. The action scenes are rubbish, largely consisting of one person after another firing a gun off the side of the screen. The whole thing is backed by a bizarre score, which seesaws between sub-Morriconne guitar jangles and Prez Prado mambo numbers.

What's right with it?

    Nothing much.

How bad is it really?

    Albert Pyun occasionally shows signs that he is almost a very good director.
    This is not one of those occasions.

Best bit?

    Random mambo plays while Moon explains that everyone is going to die. When he asks if there are any questions, Lou asks: "Where can I get this CD?"
    That really is the high point.

What's up with...?


Production values - Albert Pyun's trademark bizarre use of filters (orange outside, blue inside) dominates here, and is the technical high-point. The fight choreography is non-existent, the sound is crappy and the editing sucks. All in all, it looks as if the film was put together by a bunch of monkeys on crack. 18

Dialogue and performances - Even by their own standards, Lambert and Ice-T sleepwalk through these roles. Everyone else is worse. Except the little girl who sits in a car outside the prison all through the movie, who is great. You know; assuming she really was supposed to be the secret head of the Syndicate. 14

Plot and execution - More monkeys. They say that enough monkeys with enough typewriters could produce the works of Shakespeare. As my flatmate said - borrowing from something we can't quite remember - five monkeys; two typewriters. And some crack. Same for the direction, which seems to have been of the order of: "Do this and this, we'll wave the camera at you" (or maybe just "Ook"). 20

Randomness - Lou shot a kid. No wait, his daughter was raped. No wait, Marcus killed his daughter. What's going on? And that's just one character. 16

Waste of Potential - Brutal cat-and-mouse around a prison; it could have worked. Unlikely; but it could have done. 10

Overall 78%