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When I learned that director Tim Burton would be taking on the challenge of re-making the science fiction classic PLANET OF THE APES, I was quite excited. The level excitement remained when I walked into the movie theater to watch the film for the first time. As the film unspooled, I was very impressed with Burton’s visuals, Rick Baker’s makeup and with the performances. For the most part, I found the new screen story to be an interesting reinterpretation of Pierre Boulle’s novel and the plot of the original film. However, the script runs out of gas right at the climax, just as the screenwriters employ a deus ex machina plot device to get themselves out of the box they’ve written themselves into.

This PLANET OF THE APES ($30) opens in the not too distant future, on a space station where genetically enhanced apes are being trained for hazardous space missions. When a chimp is lost while investigating an energy storm approaching the space station, astronaut Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg) goes out after the monkey he was training. Unfortunately, Davidson’s spacecraft is sucked into the storm, hurled across space, and crashes on an unknown planet. Emerging from his ship, Davidson is shocked to discover that he has landed on a planet ruled by a society of apes that either hunt or keep humans as slaves. After being captured, a sympathetic chimpanzee named Ari (Helena Bonham Carter) purchases Davidson, much to the disdain of the human hating General Thade (Tim Roth). When Davidson escapes from the Ape City with Ari’s help, Thade takes advantage of the opportunity to seize the power required to exterminate the human threat. The cast of PLANET OF THE APES also features Michael Clarke Duncan, Paul Giamatti, Estella Warren, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, David Warner, Kris Kristofferson and Charlton Heston in an uncredited cameo.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made PLANET OF THE APES available on DVD in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. This is an absolutely terrific presentation that delivers a wonderfully crisp, highly detailed image. Other than a couple of soft shots, this transfer appears quite perfect. Colors are rich and vibrant, while flesh tones are dead on the mark. Despite the heavy saturation of certain colors, there are no problems with chroma noise or bleeding. Blacks are wonderfully inky, plus the picture produces impressive shadow detail and depth during numerous dark sequences. Digital compression artifacts are well disguised on this cleanly authored dual layer DVD.

PLANET OF THE APES is presented on DVD with both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 channel soundtracks. Both mixes are truly excellent, providing full range sound with aggressive sound effect implementation. The entire soundstage bristles with activity, which really envelops the viewer and draws into the film’s environment. Dialogue reproduction is very good, with the actors’ voices remaining completely intelligible, despite the flurry sounds that are sometimes also present in the mix. The bass channel is very strong, enhancing both sound effects and the film’s score. Speaking of the score, this is definitely one of Danny Elfman’s finest works and it is rendered with tremendous clarity and detail. As for the differences between Dolby Digital and DTS, the DTS has only a slight edge, with a warmer and more fully rounded sound. A Spanish Dolby Surround track is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English subtitles.

Animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD’s stylishly designed interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as an extensive amount of supplements, which are spread across this two-disc set. On disc one there are two running audio commentaries, one with director Tim Burton and the other with composer Danny Elfman. Both tracks can be a bit sparse in regards to comments, however Elfman’s comments are interspersed between an isolated version of his wonderful score. Disc one also includes an enhanced viewing option, which on occasion presents an ape symbol on the screen. Pressing the enter button on your DVD player’s remote control, when the ape symbol appears will take the viewer to supplementary footage directly related to a particular portion of the movie. Disc one is also DVD-ROM enhanced.

Moving on to disc two, one finds the main body of the supplements. Starting things off are six featurettes, which total over ninety minutes of programming. The Simian Academy teaches the performers to act like monkeys. Face Like A Monkey looks at Rick Baker’s makeup effects. Ape Couture shows the film’s costume design. Chimp Symphony, Op. 37 shows Danny Elfman working with the orchestra during the scoring sessions. On Location: Lake Powell shows the cast and crew at work on the only location shared by the original film and this 2001 remake. Swinging From The Trees takes a look at the stunt work involved to make humans into believable apes. The Screen Tests section offers fifteen minutes worth of Make-Up Tests, Group Tests, Costume Tests, Stunt Test, and Movement Tests. Also included on the DVD are four Multi-Angle Featurettes, which run approximately twenty-five minutes. The segments entitled Limbo's Quadrangle, Sandar's Escape, Escape From Ape City, and In the Forest can be viewed from individual angles or in a composite mode, showing all angles at once. Five extended scenes are offered on the second DVD, and while interesting; they don’t offer too much material beyond what is present in the theatrical cut of the film. Also present is an HBO Special that follows actor Michael Clarke Duncan through the day on the set of the movie. The Rule The Planet Remix is a music video for Paul Oakenfield’s dance remix of Danny Elfman‘s music. A theatrical teaser, a theatrical trailer and six TV spots are provided on disc two, in addition to posters, press kit and a music promo. A conceptual art gallery, plus various DVD-ROM features close out disc two’s supplements.

PLANET OF THE APES isn’t a perfect movie because the script falls apart in the last act. However, there are places where the film itself teeters on brilliance. Tim Burton’s visuals are compelling; Rick Baker’s makeup is incredibly good, as are a number of the performances. As for the DVD, it is an absolute winner. The presentation is truly first rate and the extensive supplemental materials offer fans everything they could possibly want. If you enjoyed PLANET OF THE APES in the theaters, then don’t hesitate in picking up a copy of the DVD.


Planet of the Apes


DVD reviews are Copyright 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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