A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Planet of the Apes is the 2001 Tim Burton'-directed remake of the 1968 sci-fi classic. There is intense and prolonged peril, a great deal of violence, and many deaths. Human characters are beaten, branded, and verbally and physically abused. They are also shown getting branded with a branding iron; an ape sympathetic to the plight of humans is later branded. There's a brief mild sexual situation in which a female ape is bouncing on top of a male ape in bed. The appearance and overall violent behavior of most of the apes could be scary to younger and more sensitive viewers.
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What's the story?
In this update of the 1968 sci-fi classic, PLANET OF THE APES features Mark Wahlberg as Leo, an officer in the United States Air Force, working on a space station in 2029. An exploratory aircraft piloted by a monkey disappears into a mysterious electrical field. Against the orders of his commanding officer, Leo follows it to find out what happened. The storm hurtles him through time and space until he crashes on a planet where apes rule and humans are slaves. Ari (Helena Bonham Carter) helps Leo and some of the others escape to a forbidden city that will reveal some of the planet's history. But General Thade (Tim Roth) and his army are in pursuit with orders to destroy them. As Burton promised in interviews, this version does not use the now-famous ending in the first film that showed them the planet they had landed on was Earth. This one ends with a twist that may even top it.
Is it any good?
This is less a remake than a re-imagining of the classic staring Charlton Heston. This version has no loincloth and no Statue of Liberty, and no Roddy McDowell, but Heston does show up for a surprisingly effective cameo -- as one of the apes. As in all of Tim Burton's movies, the art direction in Planet of the Apes is intricate, meticulous, and strangely beautiful. Every detail is a work of art, from the texture of the ape armor to the outline of the spaceship.
Wahlberg makes an appealing, all-American hero, though he is not up to the task of delivering a brief pep talk to the assembled humans. But he is fine in the action scenes and he handles the challenge of kissing females of two different species with reasonable finesse. Overall, the simian performers are better and more believable than the humans. Bonham Carter makes a remarkably fetching ape, using her eyes and body language to deliver a real performance. Roth is a seething presence as the bad guy, Michael Clarke Duncan gives physical and emotional weight to the role of the loyal officer, and Paul Giamatti is hilarious as a slave trader held hostage.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the way that Burton makes unabashedly clear the parallels between the views of the apes toward humans and the views of racists and other bigots on Earth. Like those who have argued for segregation, apartheid, genocide, and "ethnic cleansing," the apes find justification for their oppression of humans by insisting that humans are inferior creatures who have no souls or by demonizing them. The apes seem to have no problem with sub-species distinctions, and different kinds of apes work and socialize without any distinctions.
Not only was this movie a remake of a classic sci-fi movie, but it's also based on a 1963 novel. What would be the challenges in adapting not only a classic movie, but also the novel on which both movies were based?
Many viewers and reviewers had a problem with the movie's ending. The ending of the 1968 movie is a well-known final image even to those who have never seen it, and the makers of this version opted for a deviation from this. What do you see as the challenges in creating an ending that is both visually exciting, but also fits the logic of the story arc that preceded it?
- In theaters: July 27, 2001
- On DVD or streaming: November 20, 2001
- Cast: Helena Bonham Carter, Mark Wahlberg, Michael Clarke Duncan, Paul Giamatti
- Director: Tim Burton
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Book Characters
- Run time: 119 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some sequences of action/violence
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