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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: DTS 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English, Hebrew, Czech, Polish, Hungarian, Dutch, Portuguese, Turkish, Icelandic, Croatian, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish
  Extras
  • Deleted scenes
  • 5 Theatrical trailer - (Doctor Dolittle 2, Moulin Rouge, The Apes Saga)
  • 2 Audio commentary - Director Tim Burton; Composer Danny Elfman
  • Cast/crew biographies
  • 8 Featurette
  • Production notes
  • Photo gallery
  • Animated menus
  • Music video
  • 6 TV spot
  • DVD-ROM features
  • Multiple angle

Planet of the Apes: SE (2001)

20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox . R4 . COLOR . 115 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

When Tim Burton finally signed on to direct the remake of 1968 classic Planet of the Apes, his fanbase probably breathed a sigh of relief and anticipation that the project had fallen into the hands of someone with vision and substance. Batman, A Nightmare Before Christmas, Ed Wood, Edward Scissorhands and one of my personal faves – Mars Attacks! - certainly weren’t typical Hollywood quick-buck, no-brainer film making. With the unique look and success of Sleepy Hollow still fresh in minds, you’d have thought that PotA was going to be a dead cert critical and box office winner. So what went wrong?

To start with, in an effort to deflect bad press and try to throw off inevitable comparisons, Burton tagged his version a “re-imagining” rather than a straight remake. Being the cynical bastard I am, I ignored this and took the film for what it really was, which was undoubtedly a remake. I wasn’t the only one who saw things this way. If you’d seen both versions, the unanimous vote was in favour of the original. If you’d only seen Burton’s vision, then you’d most likely have given his a thumbs up for style, but a big thumbs down for story and execution. Still, when sci-fi is thin on the ground and the cinemas are full of endless Julia Roberts and Russell Crowe Oscar Winning Performances©, even a so-so film about tyrannical apes can be moderately entertaining for a change and a welcome diversion from reality.

For the three people in the world who are unaware of what the film is about, the remake is changed only trivially from the original, and has Mark Wahlberg (Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch) as the trainer of an intelligent chimp aboard a space station. When scientists discover an anomaly in space, the chimp is sent out in a small spacecraft to examine it and soon disappears off their screens. Marky Mark, defying orders, goes out after his chimp and is thrown into the future, crash landing on a nearby planet. Imagine then his shock when he discovers that on this planet, humans are slaves and the planet is ruled by... CHICKENS! Okay, I’m kidding. Of course it’s ruled by apes. I bet you didn’t see that twist coming...

Captured by the apes, Marky’s not happy with his predicament, and makes a break for where he believes his crew will rescue him, with a band of humans and ape sympathisers in tow. From here, the rest of the film appears to be about Mark’s attempts to free the humans, maybe get jiggy with a female ape and hopefully escape the planet. Don’t be fooled though, it’s really just a big lecture about humans and their politics and what’s wrong today (Burton basically admits this in his commentary). This is Tim Burton trying to prove he can have a Big Message in his movies while still being quirky enough to have Tim Roth play a psychotic monkey general. Nothing new here, when this is exactly what he did with Edward Scissorhands (without the psychotic monkey general obviously, he used a guy with shears for hands instead. Same difference, really. And am I the only one who think Edward Scissorhands is really a film about Burton’s adolescent masturbation guilt?)

The New Ending, Or, What the F**k’s Going On Here? (no spoilers, I promise.) On a final critical note, but one which needs to be said (me being the opinionated idiot that I am), Burton’s choice for an ending left a final sour taste in my mouth which I had problems getting past. The ending to the original Planet of the Apes is probably one of the greatest and most recalled in cinematic history (and works without having to watch the sequels), whereas the ending to Tim Burton’s version doesn’t make any sense at all within the confines of his film. Not a single person I’ve spoken to can explain it, and even Tim Burton seems a little embarrassed by it in his commentary. He hints that it is designed to make sense only when the sequels are made and slyly tries to shift the blame for this towards the studio heads. The problem is that if there aren’t any sequels - which is a real possibility - we could be stuck with an ending that looks cool, but is completely ignorant of the preceding two hours. Cool looking monkeys or not, that’s just not good film making.

  Video
Contract

Enough of the bad things already, let’s take a look at what you’re really interested in. When you have lots of shots of wide barren landscapes, an ape versus human battle and a bit of outer space in your movies, only a 2.35:1 aspect ratio will do for that epic “Ben Hur with monkeys” look. Then, with the wizardry of DVD technology, you naturally have to have it all 16:9 enhanced for those groovy widescreen televisions. So, with these initial checkboxes present and accounted for, this DVD is off to a good start and things look mighty promising.

Then you hope that the transfer for such a recent big budget blockbuster is up to the job of drawing you in to the sumptuous world of Tim Burton's imagination. So, taking a deep breath, you press PLAY and... exhale happily when you see how good the picture looks. From the opening space shots with the rich inky black, the wonderful ape costumes and superb makeup applications to the ape actors which look stunning, the level of detail shown here is fantastic. The many set pieces, each very different from each other come up a treat with impressive clarity that retains its film like looks without appearing overly artificial. From start to finish, the picture exhibits great colour, abundant fine detail, and shadows which never get bogged down with the many dark scenes and sets.

Say what you will about Burton’s hatchet job on the story, but this DVD shows he really knows how to create a wonderful world for his vision, and this DVD is the perfect showcase for it.

  Audio
Contract

Plenty of you will buy this DVD simply in anticipation of the spectacle it will present in the multi-channel home cinema environment. Even an average movie can be given a new lease of life on DVD, as people can forgive a few story flaws as long as it serves up the goods aurally. With that in mind, you’ll die smiling knowing that this is yet another Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS release which can supply the audio impact when needed.

Planet of the Apes presents plenty of opportunities for your gear to utilise these formats, moving sound around your room with dynamic effects in the opening setups out in space as they enter the magnetic storm, the battle against the apes create a nice soundfield and even some of the more mundane ape city sets and quieter slow sections in the middle pleasing your ears. Throughout the film the audio is served up clearly, enabling even the heavily madeup ape actors to be as distinct as the normal humans characters, something which really helps you to suspend disbelief.

It’s this quality to the audio (and the video as well) which makes the failure of the film even more frustrating to me, because the transfer side of this DVD is just so bloody good.

  Extras
Contract

With a slick animated menu system, you know that a fair bit of effort has gone into the extra features package. On disc one, as well as the main feature, there is a director's commentary with ol’ crazy hair himself, Tim Burton. This isn’t too bad, but he tends to ramble on a bit, and his disjointed thought processes can grate a little. Composer Danny Elfman gets his own audio commentary as well, which is a nice mark of respect to him.

Enhanced Viewing Mode inserts picture-in-picture segments at relevant points throughout the film showing things like behind the scenes footage and people talking about the technology etc. Some scene specific segments come up as full screen featurettes and then return to the film upon completion.

There are also Cast and Crew Bio’s and DVD-ROM content.

Hidden away on disc 1 is an Easter egg which should amuse you for about 11 seconds. Check out our Easter egg section for instructions on how to find it.

On the second disc of this set, the features are divided into six sections.
Section 1, titled The Making of the Apes, contains:
Simian Academy 24 minutes – a look at how much work went into getting the actors to move and act believably like apes and monkeys, and it looks like a lot of effort. There’s no “ooh ohh ehh ehh” monkey crap here.
Face Like a Monkey 30 minutes – is about the process of turning the actors into realistic apes through the makeup process, with long waits in a chair early in the morning having all manner of gunk applied to their faces. THe things we do for a million dollar paycheck...
Ape Couture 6.32 minutes – being civilised apes, they couldn’t very well go around butt naked, so this featurette has a gander at the consideration of what they would wear.
Screen Tests 13.50 minutes total – this contains five separate sections. Similar to the use of multi-angle, four of these clips divide the screen into four different streams of footage at once, and allow you to select which you want to hear the audio for. One clip shows a single video stream of test footage.
Chimp Symphony Op. 37 9.40 minutes – on the same soundstage where Jerry Goldsmith recorded the score for the first PotA in 1968, this footage watches as Danny Elfman assembles the new score and features some words with the man himself.
On Location: Lake Powell 12 minutes – Lake Powell, Arizona, is the location for the spacecraft crash in the original PotA, and as an homage is the setting for a some scenes in the remake.
Swinging from the Trees 9.32 minutes – In another featurette on the apes, this one focuses on the ways they made the action of the apes moving around the sets and locations happen, such as the way General Thade would mount his horse (stop sniggering), how they could swing from the trees and scratch their arses (well, maybe not the last one).

Section 2 contains Multi-Angle Featurettes, with subsections:
Limbo’s Quadrangle – three scenes, Sandar’s House – three scenes, Escape from Ape City – one scene and In the Forest – one scene. Rather than just utilising the multi-angle function, each scene also contains production art, the actual scene from the film and the script to flesh it out further.

Section 3 contains five Extended Scenes, which vary slightly from the final versions. My favourite has a brief glimpse of Homer Simpson on a screen, which had been cut from the film. If they had left it in I might have given the story an extra point.

Section 4, titled Promotional Works, contains:
HBO Special: The Making of Planet of the Apes 26.44 minutes – your typical HBO thing, hosted by Michael Clarke Duncan. A fluffy, glossy, promo piece which condenses down the other features on this disc into a handy bite-sized treat.
Paul Oakenfold – Rule the Planet Remix 2.49 minutes - is a music video by someone called Paul Oakenfold. Should I know him? Should I care? I admit I'm out of touch with "popular music culture". Sounds like some DOOF DOOF guy to me.
Trailers and TV Spots has two theatrical trailers, six TV spots and trailers for Planet of the Apes Saga, Moulin Rouge and Dr. Dolittle 2.
Poster and Press Kit has a few bits of artwork and fairly extensive text screens about the film.
Music promo is a thirty second ad for the soundtrack.

Section 5 contains an extremely extensive Artwork Gallery which encompasses practically every facet of the production. You could be looking in here forever. Bring some bread with you.

Section 6 has more DVD-ROM extras you can access with your computer, just in case the extras I’ve listed above aren’t enough for you.

Woah. I do believe I was a few years younger when I started to look at the extras on this DVD.

  Overall  
Contract

I look at this film in two ways: 1. It’s another slice of big budget science fiction, which is something we just don’t get enough of these days, so I like it in that respect and can forgive some of the slip ups. OR 2. As a film, Tim Burton pretty much dropped the ball on this one because he focused way too much on getting the apes looking just right and trying to be preachy, but not enough on casting a hero who could act and writing a story that was entertaining, or indeed featured an ending which made sense.

This DVD, however, I just can’t fault. It just does everything right. With a great looking picture, fantastic sound and an absolute bucketload of extras, it’s one of the best quality and value for money releases available.


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=1386
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      And I quote...
    "...a great looking picture, fantastic sound and an absolute bucketload of extras, it’s one of the best quality and value for money releases available"
    - Vince Carrozza
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-525
    • Receiver:
          Sony STR-DB1070
    • Speakers:
          Wharfedale s500
    • Centre Speaker:
          Polk Audio CS245
    • Surrounds:
          Wharfedale s500
    • Subwoofer:
          DB Dynamics TITAN
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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