The original Planet of the Apes and its sequels created a world that was ripe for future movies and merchandising, but Hollywood failed to execute on its intentions for many years.
Finally, Tim Burton took up the challenge. He would reimagine the world of the apes, referring to the original novel as well as the previous films.
The plot? An Earth spaceship is studying an anomaly in space. Rather than risk a manned mission, the plan is to have a genetically-enhanced chimpanzee pilot a Pod into the storm. However, when the first ape explorer gets lost in the space storm, ape trainer and astronaut Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg) launches in his own Pod to rescue the chimp.
After blundering into the storm, Leo's Pod travels through space and time before crashlanding on a primitive world. A world where primitive humans are being hunted by civilized apes!
Leo is eventually taken prisoner by the apes and taken to their city. Can he escape? Will help come?
The special effects are amazing. The mask technology since the original movies had improved astronomically. Some wire work and other physical techniques are used to give the impression that the apes have immense strength, can bound from place to place, and can run on all fours. The ape-playing actors have been trained to depict apes as still animal in nature, prone to social touching and outbursts of screaming.
Helena Bonham Carter plays Ari, a chimpanzee sympathetic to humans; Tim Roth plays Thade, a psychotic chimpanzee general in love with Ari. Kris Kristofferson plays a human leader, and supermodel Estella Warren plays a beautiful human warrior.
Tim Burton creates a visually stunning ape world, but cannot decide how seriously he wants to take the material: on one hand, we have apes depicted realistically grooming each other, and on the other hand, apes are bouncing along as if the laws of physics had been repealed. Burton shows amusing glimpses of ape life rather than having the 'message' of the original films.
The plot is just a chase movie, with a triple twist ending that many viewers found disappointing.
The performances are not the problem. All of the actors did excellent work. Kris Kristofferson has screen presence but his role is small; Estella Warren's role gives her little to do except stunts. Two actors from the original movie have cameos.
This movie was successful enough that the studio wanted to make a sequel, but Tim Burton declined.
Can you game it? There is a major battle scene, and the setting provides inspiration for a continuing campaign. The problem is that the apes obviously outclass the humans as warriors.
The only character I had any interest in was Leo. I found the plot boring. I thought the ending was disappointing. Not recommended.