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Credit Where It’s Due

There are some positives that have to be stated, though. Even though Burton wrongly thought of Planet of the Apes as just a creature feature, the makeup in the film does showcase how far special effects makeup has come since the 1960s. Master makeup artist Rick Baker did great work, and for that, the film should be commended (even if the apes kind of look like an odd cross of the Jacksons and Paula Abdul).

There is a ton of craftsmanship in this film, and the amount of work that was put into the costuming, set design and the rigorous training the actors had to do to seem ape-like shouldn’t go unnoticed. It’s just a shame all of that work didn’t pay off. Despite my ragging on Burton in this article, you can tell there was still a kernel of earnestness there. No one wants to put out a bad film, especially one as costly and time-consuming as this one.

Also, the ending of the film is somewhat impressive. Yes, it’s corny to have an ape Abraham Lincoln statue. But in the original ending of the book, our astronaut hero goes back to what he thinks is the present day, only to find that the present day is full of apes. There’s still no Lincoln statue in the book, but in its own way, the ending of the film actually does reference the ending of the source material.

Also, the lead-up to the film and the months after ,reminded movie fans why they loved the original Planet of the Apes to begin with, leading to tons of Apes merchandise. It was during this time my mom and I were finally able to buy the entire series of films, so on that level, Burton’s Apes did something good.

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Where 2001’s Planet of the Apes Sits in the Apes Canon

So, what place does Burton’s Apes take when looking at the entirety of the Apes catalogue? It’s a tough call. On the one hand, it’s easiest to just block it out and pretend it never existed, which is what many Apes fans do. However, you can’t not acknowledge it and its footprint in Hollywood filmmaking.

Therefore, it might be best to just acknowledge the film for what it is. Is it a bad movie? Of course it is. As a hardcore Apes fan, it doesn’t have much to redeem itself with in my book, aside from what I’ve already mentioned. However, it did provide the current Apes crew with a play-by-play of what not to do when reviving the Apes franchise. You make sure the central subject is an ape, you give the humans secondary, almost futile roles, and you organically weave in macro discussions about our world into the story. Basically, an Apes filmmaker needs to follow the tried-and-true method laid out by the original Apes films, because they were successful due to the sum of its political and social parts, not just the ape makeup.

Overall, Burton’s Apes stands as a monolith, a piece of film to study, dissect, and learn from when it comes to the art of storytelling. Sometimes, you don’t need to try to outwit your source material.  Otherwise you might come out looking like a fool.

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