Planet Of The Apes
With his blockbuster adaptation of Batman, Tim Burton took subject matter virtually synonymous with '60s kitsch and transformed it into something much darker and edgier. With his much-anticipated remake of Planet Of The Apes, the director attempts a similar feat, eschewing the campy histrionics of the 1968 film while updating and emphasizing the more allegorical aspects of Pierre Boulle's novel. Part action movie, part science-fiction epic, and part allegory, Burton's film stars a muted, terse Mark Wahlberg (surely the least angst-ridden and most masculine Burton hero to date) as an astronaut of the future who crashlands on a planet where evolutionary roles have been reversed and apes and other simians rule over terrified human slaves. Aided by the bleeding-heart daughter (Helena Bonham Carter) of a prominent politician, Wahlberg endeavors to escape his brutish rulers and return home, an effort thwarted at every turn by militaristic, power-mad simian general Tim Roth. Burton's personal, whimsical films (Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure) tend to be his best, while his large-scale, more action-oriented movies (Mars Attacks!, Sleepy Hollow, Batman) are often less memorable. Although not without its moments, Planet Of The Apes generally falls into the latter category. Like A.I.—which it resembles in a number of ways, both good and bad—Planet Of The Apes follows in the noble tradition of science fiction that employs the fantastic to explore and comment on eternal issues and concerns. But where A.I. explored the nature of humanity in a mature and probing manner, Planet Of The Apes seems content to merely condemn prejudice, scientific arrogance, and rulership by brute force. Burton makes the link between the simian community's sense of superiority and human intolerance overtly explicit by trotting out every racist trope and attitude imaginable, yet the film's social criticism remains frustratingly skin-deep. Like all of Burton's films, Apes is visually stunning and consistently inventive, but it never combines its disparate elements into an emotionally or thematically satisfying whole.