Was 2001 Remake ‘Planet Of The Apes’ Really That Bad?

Because everything is getting remade these days, and the rest of the Uproxx team is still punishing me for the “chalupa incident”, I’ve been reviewing some notable pop culture film failures to see how bad they really are. I’ve seen some bad movies, but not nearly as big of a train wreck as this.

Burton Fights The Monkeys

When you think big, bold science fiction, replete with huge battle scenes and a cast of thousands, the absolute last freaking name in the world you should come up with to direct it is Tim Burton. The twee guy who thinks he’s Edward Gorey? Who the f*** invited him to this party?

The answer is desperate Fox executives. This movie has a ridiculous production history that started in 1988, when it was going to star Ahnuld. Between being conceived and actually being launched, it went to just about every other director on the planet, including vastly more suitable directors like James Cameron, Oliver Stone, Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson, and the Hughes Brothers. The story is always the same; the movie comes close to shooting, and then Fox executives play musical chairs and torpedo it.

If you want to cry about what could have been, there could have been a movie set during the Apes version of the Renaissance. That was Peter Jackson’s idea.

Ultimately, Burton signed on in less than two years before the movie was supposed to hit theaters, only for Fox to immediately demand he chop the budget in half. Burton didn’t care; he needed a paycheck. The script was being rewritten even as the sets were being built… and damn, does it show.

Ending? What’s An Ending?

Realistically, this movie is no more ridiculous than the original for most of its running time. Yeah, Mark Wahlberg was even less credible as an astronaut then than he is now, but it’s an agreeably silly movie. Burton is undeniably somewhat out of his depth, but honestly, it’s a movie about talking monkeys with swords. The main problem is that it assumes we care, at all, about the politics and religion of talking monkeys, none of which is creative or interesting, but eh, at least they’re trying.

You really feel bad for Rick Baker, who may just have wept blood designing the makeup for this. Everybody in the cast really does look great, right down to the mooks. This becomes a problem because Burton apparently wants to bang Helena Bonham Carter even in full monkey getup, so he shoots and costumes her accordingly. This becomes even more uncomfortable when you realize he did this without realizing she looks quite a bit like Michael Jackson.

The main problem is the third act, which is slavishly dedicated to the idea that every Apes movie must end with a giant, world-shaking twist. This would be great, if the screenwriters didn’t see this as an excuse to paper over every plot hole in the movie with some twist or another. First Marky Mark discovers the sacred site of the apes is his old space station, which, no s**t, really? Because the movie’s only been broadcasting this since the first act, what with the fact that they make it very clear Marky Mark travels through time and that his space station is full of highly intelligent apes.

Then a chimp from the opening shows up in a spaceship and is mistaken for Monkey Jesus, conveniently ending what was about to be an absolute slaughter. Then Marky Mark and a monkey that sounds that guy in the diner from Pulp Fiction get in a fistfight on his crashed space station, which he wins by closing a door (really.)

And after all that Marky Mark goes back in time and either discovers monkeys have taken over Earth or he’s just gone back in time and is still on Monkey Planet, it’s not really clear which. Either way, this is revealed by the widely mocked Aperaham Lincoln Memorial, a joke I have been waiting thirteen years to finally use.

Notice that the reboot that came a decade later, Dawn of The Planet Of The Apes, chucked the twist thing out the window altogether. This movie is probably a big reason why, and good riddance to it.

Probably the most damning thing I can say about this movie is that it’s so mediocre even the most egregious attempts to get the audience to feel anything, even just disgust and loathing towards the apathy of the filmmakers, falls flat. Nobody behind the camera cares, and it shows. But I take solace in this: at least it wasn’t f***ing Godzilla.