Quite honestly, I don't know how I should judge or write about this film. I'm too distracted by my continuous unconscious references to the original "Apes" and Tim Burton's previous films. Perhaps I expected too much "Sleepy Hollow" and too little "Mars Attacks!." Perhaps that is precisely my problem with the film. Was I entertained? Yes. The sound effects were amazing and the apes gracefully walked the fine line between looking lifelike and looking appropriately cheesy, with their grunts and all. I like Mark Wahlberg, though he wasn't quite man enough to carry this film on his own. Hell, I even like that chick Estella Warren who was basically paid to look nice in a Neanderthal outfit. I like Helena Bonham Carter, even though her character was cheesy. The references to the original--the ones I caught, at least--were cute. The Charlton Heston cameo was cute. As is true of all Burton films, "Apes" was a visual and technical triumph more than anything else, though more uneven. At times Burton seemed to get so excited about the apes that his direction got lost in cheap ape jokes and scares.
And half the time the film felt schizophrenic. Scratch that, almost all the time it did. At its best, the film is imaginative Burton summer fare; at its worst, the film is predictable, pretentious, and what's worse? The jokes aren't even funny. We wonder what Carter and Tim Roth are doing in ludicrous ape suits. One minute I'm watching an ape woman performing some sort of mating ritual, the next I'm pondering evolutionary mechanisms. It was as if the film couldn't decide whether it wanted to be this serious, moralistic cautionary sci-fi adventure tale or be--and I risk becoming repetitive here--"Mars Attacks!." Still moralistic, still sardonic and biting, but all paling in comparison to its Cheesy Science Fiction Movie syndrome. The last scene was probably representative of the film: while paying homage to the original "Apes" (I still liked the old ending better ... at least then we couldn't pretend that this was all some sort of hallucination), it manages to be simultaneously harrowing and campy. I'm not quite sure what Burton was trying to do, and this being Burton, I found my high expectations disappointed. I like Burtonesque humor, and I'm not averse to apocalyptic science fiction stories, but I found this pill too bizarre to swallow.
Now, for extra credit, how many times did I refer to cheese?
Rating: C+ (First viewing, 8/6/01)