Directed by Tim Burton, starring Mark Wahlberg, Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Roth.
How could anyone compete with the Statue of Liberty half-buried on a beach? The closing image from the 1968 movie 'Planet of the Apes', where astronaut Taylor (played by Charlton Heston) discovers that he's on a post apocalyptic earth is regarded as one of the most jaw-dropping finales in cinema history and led to the film making the list of the 100 greatest thrillers of all time. And Tim Burton wanted to remake it.
Well not exactly, ever since Burton signed on to direct a project which has been floating around Hollywood for over twelve years, he's been at pains to point out that his film is a "reimagining" of the original and the chance to look at the plot of Pierre Boulle's 1963 novel through his own viewfinder.
Throughout his career, from first film 'Batman' to 1999's 'Sleepy Hollow', Burton has focused on the experiences of outsiders who find themselves in societies beyond their comprehension but try to make the best of it and '…Apes' is no exception.
The premise has changed little over 33 years. Gung ho Astronaut Leo Davidson (Wahlberg) crash lands on a planet and finds that the natural order has been turned upside down, with apes calling the shots and humans trying to avoid them. Imprisoned, he is befriended by caring chimp scientist Ari (Bonham Carter), tormented by psychotic military overlord General Thade (Roth) and soon hatches a plan to escape.
While Franklin J Schaffner's 1968 film was fuelled by the Cold War, Vietnam and the battle for equality in the US, Burton opts instead for the issue of animal rights. In this, he has created a film, which while in no way as groundbreaking as the original, eclipses the sequels which followed it and the event movie dross we suffer on a yearly basis. What could have been the big budget disaster of the summer is instead its greatest triumph, a clever, giddy tour through a zoo that gives parents as much to point at as their kids.
Granted the film lacks the psychological complexities of Charlton Heston's war of words with his bow-legged captors, but Burton's vision of the simian universe is more complete. It has the quirkiness (apes playing basketball, wearing wigs etc) that has been the hallmark of his career, and an irony (Wahlberg crashes after trying to rescue a NASA chimp, Heston appears as an ageing ape) which shows how much he respects but sees beyond the source material. No long time ape fan can accuse Burton of sacrilege.
And what the film lacks in depth it more than makes up for in cover-your-eyes action. The apes of '68 may now appear more comical than scary but their 2001 descendents are truly terrifying. While Charlton Heston was able to rough up his tormentors during his escape, Wahlberg isn't quite so lucky: the apes are colossal and he doesn't land one good punch for the film's duration.
The make-up by Rick Baker is stunning, proving that a good mask and a little imagination is worth a lot more than a blank cheque and an endless amount of CGI. Underneath them Bonham Carter and Roth give some of their best onscreen work to date: hers a beguiling mix of intelligence and sexiness; his a masterclass in gravel voiced malevolence and short fuse dynamics.
The film's only failing is that it's all over too soon. There was plenty of room for another 20 minutes before Wahlberg's last showdown with the banana gang in the desert. But while it's a disappointment it's also proof that Burton's has done his job well. And while many have complained that the film's ending is too smug for its own good, it does creates the perfect atmosphere for a sequel and raises a handful of questions that you were too carried away to ask as you burrowed into the popcorn.
I for one can't wait.