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August 8, 2001     Beverly Hills Weekly
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August 8, 2001
 

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"Planet of plays volution In Filmmaking By Justin Levine Tim Roth (transformed by Rick Baker's makeup) in "Planet of the Apes" This summer has provided a textbook exam- pie of how to take a proactively bad film and use it to break box office records: 1. Decide to make a film based on some- thing already familiar to multiple generations of moviegoers (a comic book, a television show, a previous classic film that does not need to be remade). 2. Load it up with special effects and star names, then selectively leak images to the public demonstrating how great the stars will look within a world of new special effects. 3. Rev up a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign that saturates the airwaves, bill- boards, and magazines with images that simul- taneously evoke hip new ideas aimed at the youth culture, as well as nostalgia lot the older generation who remember the original item that the film is based on. 4. Wait to release the film during the magi- cal window of opportunity during the summer when there are no other big competing fihns opening that week. Then hope that the summer film fare has already been dreadful enough such that the entertainment starved masses will be duped into lining up to witness any- thing that a large marketing campaign compels them to see. Studios know that audiences will never demand anything more. The bottom line is this: Box office success has far more to do with marketing and timing than the quality of the picture. You need only witness a current example infecting our theaters this week. By the time you read this, your humble film critic fears that it may be too late. He fears that you may be amongst the summer lemmings lined up to see "Planet of the Apes." If that is the case, you need not feel guilty since you are hardly alone. However, you must resolve to stay away from any sequels that are spawned from this "remake" or "reinterpretation" of the clas- sic 1968 version, lest studios continue to think that they can get away with the fraud they per- petuate on audiences. In case you are unfamiliar with the plot, "Planet of the Apes" concerns an astronaut in the future (Mark Wahlberg, previously played by Charlton Heston) who goes through a time warp propelling him into the future where he encounters a planet ruled by talking apes that enslave humans. That is about all you need to know for purposes of this discussion. The remake of "Plant of the Apes" was directed by Tim Burton who once again demon- strates that he is far better suited to smaller personal films than trying to direct big budgeted action pictures (compare gems such as "Edward Scissorhands" and "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" to his hollow "Batman" and "Batman Returns" projects.). What Burton leaves us with here is a film that is thoroughly boring for the first two-thirds, then somewhat boring dur- ing the last third when the plot delves into the origins of how the apes came to be. Rick Baker's ape makeup is certainly an improvement over the original film, though the original still stands up in most respects to allow it to remain effective. You would think that the makeup improvements would allow for more subtle acting by the ape performers, but Burton does not seem to allow that. All the characters here are one note throughout. At least a bad film like "Jurassic Park" had a "Wow!" factor when you first see the dinosaurs and are thoroughly amazed at the effects. The effects in "Planet of the Apes" are good, but they never approach a "Wow!" level. There is very little in this film that will likely leave a lasting impression on the viewer. It is the film equivalent of the hundreds of bland shows on cable television that are there for the sole purpose of taking up space. Attempts at irony in referencing the original film fall flat (a prime example being when an ape tells Wahlberg to "Get your hands off of me you damn dirty human!" - a reference to Heston's famous line in the first film.). Anyone familiar with the surprise ending of the original "Planet of the Apes" will not be impressed with the ending here. It is not a surprise, nor does it come anywhere close to top- ing the original. This is nothing you haven't already seen in countless episodes of "The Twilight Zone." The more militant apes in this film justify their enslavement of humans based on their beliefs that, unlike apes, humans have no souls. "Planet of the Apes" is convincing proof that they may be right. Given how soulless this film is, it would have been better olT having been made by a chimpanzee. 4 Beverly Hills Weekly UNIQUE. POWERFUL. B REATHTA KIN G. 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