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Fox Home Entertainment presents
Planet of the Apes (2001)

"Never send a monkey to do a man's job"
- Captain Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg)

Review By: Brian Calhoun   
Published: March 21, 2002

Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Helena Bonham Carter, Tim Roth
Other Stars: Michael Clarke Duncan, Paul Giamatti, Estella Warren, Kris Kristofferson
Director: Tim Burton

Manufacturer: Digital Video Compression Center
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for (some sequences of action/violence)
Run Time: 01h:59m:51s
Release Date: November 20, 2001
UPC: 024543028963
Genre: sci-fi

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm scared. In 2001 more than ever, film studios brought us sequel after sequel, remake after remake, and in some cases, like Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes, a "re-imagining." What scares me is that very few studios today seem willing to entertain audiences with fresh and original ideas. I personally have great faith in the integrity of the human race, so I beg Hollywood, for the sake of pumping some life back into our veins, let's get some more original movies back into the theaters in 2002. When I heard that Tim Burton was "re-imagining" the 1968 classic directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, I treated the idea with the same feeling of dread that I do the idea of virtually any film sequel or remake. However, it would have been presumptuous of me to criticize something before seeing it, so I went into it with an open mind. The story of this 2001 version is essentially the same as the original 1968 film. A human astronaut named Captain Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg) crash lands on a strange planet inhabited by smart apes who treat humans as slaves, then finds himself struggling to stay alive and return home. Sounds familiar, right? The problem is, Tim Burton's version is completely devoid of the atmosphere and tension that the original film methodically created. The masterful setup created by Schaffner in 1968 was so carefully constructed that when we finally met the apes, 30 minutes into the film, it was literally breathtaking. In the 2001 version, Wahlberg's first encounter with the malevolent apes is so rushed and frenzied that I began to feel like a kid watching a Saturday morning cartoon. Director Tim Burton is certainly adept at making visually stunning films, but I find all too often that his films fall into the trap of not knowing what they want to be. Planet of the Apes is no exception, as we see comedy intertwining with drama, action intertwining with slapstick, and none of it coming together to form a cohesive vehicle. For the countless number of things wrong with this film, the 2001 Apes is not altogether a waste of time. The film does boast a powerful cast with a handful of lively and invigorating performances, particularly by Helena Bonham Carter as the timid but headstrong Ari and the constantly entertaining Tim Roth as the wicked and deceitful Thade. The prosthetic effects created by the prolific makeup artist, Rick Baker, are so convincing that one might be inclined to wonder if the filmmakers did not somehow beam down and employ actual talking apes from another world. The cinematography by Philippe Rousselot creates a haunting presence of light and shadow that one could easily expect from an eerie and distant planet. Last but certainly not least, Charleton Heston delivers a hilarious cameo as a dying ape leader, and all at once pokes fun at his role in the original film and his off screen status as President of the NRA! When it comes down to the big picture however, these achievements provided by such skilled entertainers are overshadowed by the fact that a landmark of American cinema has been reduced to a hot-buttered popcorn cheese fest. The original Planet of the Apes was fairly dense for a science fiction picture, and touched on some very important social issues at the time, including racism and threats of genocide. The 2001 version could have easily delivered a similar commentary on modern day affairs, but instead abandoned the idea of an intelligent screenplay to concentrate on powerhouse effects and an in-your-face soundtrack. Along the way, the audience is offered twists and turns and the obligatory shocker ending, but unlike the first film, which presented an ending so poignant and natural that it demanded repeat viewings, the new version's final revelation seems tacked on simply for the sake of surprise. It may seem unfair to compare this new version so closely to the original, because after all, this is a "re-imagining" and independent from the original. But in Burton's intention to create a new Planet of the Apes film, I believe he had a certain obligation to at least pay tribute and show respect to the original film. Instead, all we got was a dumbed down action picture that is merely a satire on the Schaffner classic.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: D


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The image transfer, presented in anamorphic widescreen, is visually captivating. In some minor regards, this DVD print quite possibly looks better than any Planet of the Apes film print shown in theaters this summer, as there is nary a nick or scrape to be found. Color plays a major factor in this movie; the dusky reds and emerald greens form a perfect balance with one another, blending in seamlessly with the deep blacks. Contrast is nicely balanced in the film's dimly lit interiors, and the intricate weavings of the apes' costumes and the complexities of the jungle backgrounds are always fully revealed in even the darkest of scenes. For a film that takes place in shadowy locales 75 percent of the time, white level is very pleasant; I never found it to be harsh or eye-straining. About the only criticism I can make is that the picture appears somewhat soft in a few scenes, but it is never obtrusive and actually adds a film-like presence to the transfer. All in all, this is a stunning visual experience and a DVD transfer that sets a benchmark for all other transfers.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanishno
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The 5.1 soundtrack is an outstanding achievement, and it gave my system a significant work out. The entire front soundstage is strong and convincing with Danny Elfman's dynamic and thunderous score sweeping across the three main speakers. At times, the soundtrack can be quite modest, but dynamic range is also used to the fullest and all six channels explode with sound when necessary. Fidelity is first rate, and even when the soundtrack is at peak levels the musical score slices through the sound effects beautifully, leaving no instrument buried underneath the raucous effects. Curiously, the music mostly stays locked at the front, leaving the surrounds exclusively for the effects. This is an odd way of mixing a soundtrack as far as I'm concerned, and I did find it to sound very interesting, although not preferred. During key action sequences the split surrounds become actively engaged and provide wonderful channel separation, fully enveloping the listener and heightening the sense of spatiality. Additionally, these action sequences provide heart-pounding, room-shattering pulses of deep bass that effectively enhance the sense of realism. Dialogue is recorded nicely; I never had to strain to hear the actors, even when the music and sound effects were at peak dynamic range. While not necessarily top-of-the-line demo material, this is a winning soundtrack that should be highly commended.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 36 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
2 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Moulin Rouge, Dr. Dolittle 2
6 TV Spots/Teasers
4 Multiple Angles with remote access
5 Deleted Scenes
Production Notes
Isolated Music Score
2 Documentaries
4 Featurette(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by director Tim Burton, musical composer Danny Elfman
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Amaray Double
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 00h:45m:21s

Extra Extras:
  1. Posters and Press Kit
  2. Stills Galleries
  3. Screen Tests
  4. Enhanced Viewing Mode Feature
Extras Review: This two-disc set from Fox throws in everything and the kitchen sink. On disc one, there are two audio commentaries, the first being the Tim Burton Commentary. Overall, Burton is interesting and informative and he definitely takes pride in his work. This is certainly not a mile-a-minute commentary; you could get up and go to the bathroom at several points and not miss a thing. The commentaries I enjoy most are those that discuss the film itself, offering insight into plot details I might not have considered. However, Burton mostly talks about the joys and sorrows of the filmmaking process and about the hardship of working with the studios and the pressures they bring. At the very least this track does entertain, and that's all that should be expected from it. Next is the Danny Elfman Commentary. I have always liked his work, and while this is not my favorite Elfman score, it is intricate, well thought out, and certainly something I would expect from such an intelligent composer. Listening to this fine track, it is apparent that he loves what he does. This is a "must hear" for anyone who is into music or the art of recording, as Elfman talks about the many different layers of film composing and working with an orchestra. He also discusses his method in creating a score for this specific genre and the ways he approaches it differently than others. When Elfman is not speaking, the track also has a fully isolated 2.0 music score. One other option while viewing the film is the "enhanced viewing mode." When selected, you are treated to various video clips and interviews during the film, shown as picture-in-picture boxes on the screen. These take you to behind-the-scenes shorts and/or interviews, based on the scene you are currently watching. There are also various pop-up icons which, when selected, will take you to separate galleries and making-of secrets. I enjoyed some of the information presented here, but I would have preferred a separate documentary on this information instead of having to wade through the entire film again for these vignettes. Cast and Crew profiles feature most of the actors, filmographies for some, and even an enhanced video option for a select few, with the additional option of viewing their original screen tests. While this is a nice touch, I wondered why they chose three such random actors for this treatment. The crew profiles have bios but no filmographies. Finishing up the extras on disc one is the "THX Optimizer," which allows the viewer to dial in picture and sound, based on the director's wishes. Moving on to disc two, we start things off with the comprehensive documentary, The Making of the Apes, which is wisely divided into seven sections: The first is Simian Academy, which is an interesting exploration into the extensive process of teaching the cast members to move like apes. A less interesting portion focuses on working with the real chimps used in the film. Overall, this section was a lot of fun to watch; it made me laugh out loud several times to see the actors in plain street clothes trying to walk around like monkeys. Face Like a Monkey is a half-hour-long segment on the fine art of creating the prosthetic makeup necessary to turn ordinary humans into realistic-looking simians. This is an all-inclusive, behind-the-scenes look into the hard work that goes into this complicated process, and features information brought to us enthusiastically by master makeup artist, Rick Baker. Ape Couture is a short segment on the various costume designs used in the film. There is not much information given here, and the segment did not do much for me. Screen Tests offers five different actors' screen tests segments. Each is presented in a 4-way split screen so the viewer can watch the screen tests all at once and also isolate individual audio tracks for any of the four screens. I liked this presentation more than being able to watch them individually, since not all of the tests proved to be interesting. The one section in Screen Tests that is not offered in split screen is Stunt Tests. This is a behind-the-scenes montage of various stunts being practiced, and for better or worse, it is set to the music from the 1968 version of Planet of the Apes. Chimp Symphony op. 37 is a feature on the musical score, following some of Danny Elfman's recording process for the film. Albeit short, this section is an enjoyable look at the film's composer, hard at work. It is interesting to hear how much of Elfman's own percussion and synthesizer work went into the final mix of the film. On Location: Lake Powell is a short segment dedicated to the production work done at Lake Powell, Arizona. It seems the only significance of this segment's inclusion is to make the viewer aware of the tribute paid by shooting on location at the same area made famous by the original film. Swinging From the Trees gives us a limited behind-the-scenes look at arranging the special effects and stunts used, and what it took to achieve them. There is some juicy information contained in this segment, and I particularly enjoyed seeing how they made the apes seem to run so fast on all fours. Next is the Multi-Angle Segment Featurette. Not only is this a fantastic example of the capabilities of the DVD format, but it also provides a candid look at the hard work that goes into creating a film. Each of the four production segments can be viewed in multiple angles, and also compared with how the sequence appears in the film. As if that were not enough, each segment also offers multiple audio tracks, highlighting various members of the production team, a gallery of production art, and a look at the script for the particular scene displayed. Anybody still having trouble convincing skeptical friends and family members on the wonders of the format should first blow their doubts away with the Planet of the Apes audio and video presentation, then guide them through these featurettes. Five extended scenes are presented in nonanamorphic widescreen and they look awful. For such a beautiful main feature, it made me wonder why they couldn't clean up the print just a tiny bit for these scenes. Regardless, there is nothing really exciting going on in these scenes, and I found their inclusion to be, essentially, ballast. Moving onward, the HBO special is the usual 30-minute film advertisement, consisting of bland interviews and behind-the-scenes information. I didn't find this section worthwhile, but of course, opinions certainly may vary. The teaser trailer, theatrical trailer and all six TV Spots are presented in nonanamorphic widescreen. Additionally, there are 2 nonanamorphic widescreen trailers for Moulin Rouge and Dr. Dolittle 2. The Paul Oakenfold Rule the Planet Remix is a typical music video presented in nonanamorphic widescreen. Any fan of cheesy dance remix music videos might enjoy this, but I found it to be a waste of time. The "Posters and Press Kit" area has a few promotional pieces and an unusually large press kit, similar to a "production notes" section. A nice amount of documentation on the history of the film's progression is covered here. The "Music Promo" is a commercial for the film's musical soundtrack, and runs roughly 30 seconds long. The "Still Images" section presents production art, locations, and characters, as well as a "Props" section that provides more production artwork for all the various props created for the film; also included are storyboards for select scenes. I have always enjoyed comprehensive stills galleries, and this is no exception. Both discs also provide DVD-Rom features for those viewers so equipped. Material that can be accessed includes Leo's Logbook, Jr. Novella, and a Script and Storyboards feature. Though not as far-reaching as some DVD-Rom features, their inclusion are a welcome addition to the already extras-packed Planet of the Apes DVD. Finally, the animated menus are fun and great to look at, but they get a little annoying to navigate after you have seen them all hundreds of times over. Nevertheless, kudos should be given for the creativity and effort that went into designing them.

Extras Grade: A


Final Comments

This is what the format is all about. Boasting a packed-to-the-brim, two-disc special edition, the Planet of the Apes DVD is more than enough to keep one occupied for weeks on end. DVD lovers who found Tim Burton's vision to be enjoyable and exciting will go bananas, if not ape, over this special edition. But for those who share my lack of enthusiasm for the film and still buy DVDs based on the movies themselves, sit tight: There is bound to be another masterfully-produced, two- or three-disc Special Edition soon enough, and one that is based upon a far superior movie.


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