July 28th, 2001. Getting to the movie theater as early as possible, I sink into my seat along with a near-sellout crowd in a huge theater to experience the ‘re-imagining’ of Planet of the Apes. I’m not going to lie, I was psyched. This was Tim Burton, the guy who brought us “Edward Scissorhands,” “Ed Wood” and “Batman,” bringing us his vision of an ape planet. The trailers, both teaser and full theatrical, were great, adrenaline-pumping fests that made you want to see the film. And if the packed theater at 12:30 in the afternoon was any indication, it had the same effect on many others.
The movie finally begins after too-damn-many trailers. The amazing title sequence begins with Danny Elfman’s powerful, percussive score thumping in full surround sound. A huge grin fills my face, and I just know this is going to be the ride of the summer. The a*s-kicking summer movie that for once might actually live up to the expectations. Hell, I didn’t even need it to live up to those high expectations, just a good number of them.
Cut to two hours later. Cut to yours truly, now fully disappointed, disenchanted, and-pardon the pun-completely disenfranchised. The plodding, laborious film limps along with a few interesting sequences and the most wooden performance from Mark Wahlberg this side of Howdy Doody. Where the original had a daring, interesting, and somewhat cynical character in Charlton Heston’s Taylor, this film features the fly-boy can-do character, the exact kind that Taylor hated. The plot is not only predictable, but the lame “twist” ending didn’t solve anything, gave you no decent resolutions, and basically said “Yeah, we made the flick so we can start a franchise and milk the all-mighty buck from the consumer.” It sheds no light on the movie as a whole, and just leaves you with more head scratching unlike the stark contrast of the original where the ending’s effect was jarring. Is it a wonder that the following week it lost 59% of its previous audience? Once word got out what a stinker it was, I wouldn’t be surprised if in the last few weeks of its run the audience came to see just how bad it was. Call it the Battlefield Earth-Effect.
What one couldn’t argue was that the make-ups used in the film were fantastic. This is undoubtedly my second-favorite part of the film, apart from the score. I expect that Rick Baker will set a standard for creature make-ups to come. But great make-up and a solid performance from Tim Roth (he makes such a wonderful villain, doesn’t he?) do not a good movie make. While the extras on this DVD set are wonderful, the film isn’t. Best taken in doses, and only when the masochistic part of your brain starts calling.
VIDEO ^ Presented in anamorphic widescreen and in an aspect ratio of about 2.2:1, this transfer is astounding. Fox is known for being no slump when it comes to transfers; with the only studios capable of bringing transfers of this quality are Warner and New Line, Fox show’s its prowess with a fantastic representation of Planet of the Apes. The coloring is spot-on, the contrast is golden, and if there were any defects, they were instantly erased and replaced with a solid image that stays that way the whole film, whether a battle or dramatic scene plays. Were it not for those instantly-fixed errors this film would’ve gotten a coveted 5-star rating, but those miniscule helpings of grain and soft shots near the end of the picture hold it back. This is my nit-picking, and 99% of the viewing audience would never notice such flaws.
AUDIO ^ No matter what flavor you choose, the 5.1 Dolby Digital track or the sphincter-tightening DTS 5.1 mix, prepare to be knocked off your seat. While it lacks fidelity in the quieter scenes and tends to be a little front-heavy, when the soundtrack kicks in, the walls will shake, the pictures will fall and the pets will run for the door. If you’re looking for a show-off track look no further than some of the more fun parts of this mix, including the spaceship crash or the chase through the jungle. While the Dolby certainly isn’t a slouch, the DTS mix pulls ahead as the better of the two, with its still-superb imaging and rock-solid bass.
A Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0 Soundtrack is also included, as well as English captions.
EXTRAS ^ Let’s face it: with a movie this bad, only a kick-a*s DVD could make you want to buy it. And the simple truth is it’s worth it. The wealth of information that is contained in this package is enough to keep even the most jaded DVD enthusiast enthralled for at least three hours plus.
Let’s also mention that this disc was produced by David Prior. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, take for instance a few of the other DVD packages he has compiled: Fight Club, Titus and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show: 25th Anniversary Edition.” To show you what kind of care went into this package, the extras are more interesting than the feature!
Packaging ^ The casing is in the Gladiator style, where you have a slim Amaray case with a plastic insert used to hold the first disc. There are three inserts with the first entitled “How the hell did these monkeys get like this?” What this is, in a nutshell, is an attempt to justify lame plotting with a lobby card that shows how electromagnetic storm time travel isn’t always in a straight line. God how I wish I could be making this up.
The other inserts include “Exclusive CD-ROM (i.e. exclusive to the number of copies sold) that features a video game, some Making-Of footage and a Charlton Heston interview. I wish I could say I watched them, but I didn’t. I guess you’ll have to experience this one for yourself.
The last is a three-page foldout detailing the 36 chapters from the film, as well as a comprehensive guide to all of the extra features inside. And trust me, with a package this extensive, you need a guide like this.
Menus ^ Both the feature and the special features disc featuring really wonderful-looking 3D Animated menus. While they have quick repeat cycles which may piss off some, they are nonetheless very, very cool and great to inspect whilst Elfman’s powerful score thumps in the background.
Disc One (The Feature) ^ Included on the movie disc are some interesting features, including two commentaries and other special features just waiting to be explored. Let’s get to em.
Enhanced Viewing Mode ^ A laborious feature that has not only picture-in-picture interviews play on-screen while the movie plays (ala “Goonies”), but also features the ‘human branding’ symbol from the film in various places where you would then hit your “Enter” button on your remote to go to one of five 3-5 minute clips on the special effects for that certain scene (think of the Follow The White Rabbit feature on the Matrix disc). While I enjoyed the interviews and the clips, wasn’t there a better way to access them instead of having to sit through the entire flick again?
Feature-Length Commentary by Director Tim Burton ^ The King Of the Run-Ons returns with his best commentary yet, but that’s not saying much. While the “Edward Scissorhands” and Sleepy Hollow commentaries were boring at best, this one actually has some decent information inside. Though his lame jokes will produce groans, he goes on to discuss how many sequel-ready tidbits he dropped in the film, and how the original “Planet of the Apes” films “went in a very circular pattern.” Oh, like covering the same ground? Or using the same concepts? Or finding no originality at all? Imagine that. Petering out around the 45-minute mark, it’s a decent attempt from Burton to keep talking the entire time, though he still does a shoddy job at it. A good point he covers is the fact he likes little to no CGI in his films, and that tweaking with older films (Star Wars, anyone?) isn’t a good idea.
Feature-Length Music-Only Track with Commentary by Composer Danny Elfman ^ I’ll admit upfront that I’m a huge fan of Danny Elfman. To get even more truthful, I own the Planet of the Apes soundtrack. I thought it was great that Elfman decided to do something a little more percussive and aggressive. I’m a firm believer that the best part of the film was the score, and Danny’s comments are always fascinating and enlightening. While he sounds like he’s being interviewed, there is still some good information found here. Covering such topics as never working with directors who are in love with temp music tracks and how great Jerry Goldsmith’s original work on POTA was, this commentary is just as interesting and entertaining as those found on the Family Man and “Edward Scissorhands” discs.
Cast and Crew Profiles ^ Bio and Filmographies are included for Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Michæl Clarke Duncan, and others. On the Crew side, look for Tim Burton, Danny Elfman, Rick Baker and Richard Zanuck (producer) among others.
DVD-ROM Features ^ A Script-to-Screen feature is included, as well as Storyboards, and commercials for the novelization for the film and the novella by Buelle. Web links to the Planet of the Apes website as well as Fox Home Entertainment.
Nuon Enhanced Features (for Nuon-Capable DVD Players)
Since I don’t have a Nuon-Capable DVD Player, I can at least tell you what they have for those who do: A “Director’s Digest”, “Viddies”, and “Cool Zoom.” Nope, I don’t know what that means either.
Disc Two (Special Features) ^ Now here’s where the package really gets to shine and Prior is allowed to spread his wings. With over 28 different segments, multiple angles and audio tracks, prepare to be spending quite a bit of time searching out all of it. While there are no Easter Eggs (dammit), there isn’t really need for them-so much is here that after exhausting yourself watching it all, you’d be hard-pressed to get the energy to look for them.
The special features are split into six different categories that revolve around a neat-looking 3D animated ape warrior. They are “The Making of Planet of the Apes”, “Multi-Angle Featurettes”, “Extended Scenes”, “Promotional Works”, “DVD-ROM”, and “Gallery”. Let’s take an in-depth look at each category.
The Making of Planet of the Apes ^ The largest and most extensive extras are found in this first section and include seven different segments. Informative and involving, these features will probably be the most viewed of the second disc.
Simian Academy (24:07) ^ According to co-star Paul Giamatti, it’s called Simian Academy because “it sounded a little classier than Ape School.” This in-depth and interesting piece centers on Stunt Performer and Movement coaches Terry Notary and Sonny Tipton, as well as Stunt Coordinator Charlie Croughwell and how they worked with actors to get them to walk, talk and act like apes. We see hundreds of extras learn how to become their “own ape” and watch them mope down a busy LA street in character, as well as amusing footage of Helena Bonham Carter’s long-winded philosophies on ape communication. While it might run a bit long, it’s worth your time and is interesting to see how they trained everyone in their ape mannerisms.
Face Like A Monkey (29:42) ^ What we have here is an in-depth look at the behind the scenes in Rick Baker’s workshop. Not only do we go inside said workshop, but we see the actors being transformed from human to ape before our very eyes (in some quick editing covering a six-hour process). Interviews with Baker and Burton are included, as well as focusing on actors Michæl Clarke Duncan and Paul Giamatti. From the 2am wake-up calls, the four hours of make-up, the two hours of wardrobe and the slow hour-long process of taking the make-up off, there is nary a stone unturned as far as the make-up effects are concerned.
Ape Couture (6:29) ^ Costume Designer Colleen Atwood discusses her role in the film as well as showing us around her shop and the awesome ape-warrior costume designs used in the film. I didn’t know Tim Burton designed the great helmets or that they burnt through at least 4 sewing machines to create the costumes, but I do now. Also included are 35mm camera tests of Mark Wahlberg and Helena Bonham Carter.
Screen Tests ^ There are five subsections here, “Make-Up Tests”, “Costume Tests”, “Group Tests”, “Stunt Tests” and “Movement Tests”.
Make-Up Tests (3:45) ^ This feature, along with all of the other Screen Tests (apart from the Stunt Tests) feature a quad-screen split of different video. In the top right corner of the videos are small “Play” buttons that can be navigated and clicked on to hear the audio for that particular portion. These quad screens consist of Paul Giamatti, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Bonham’s bodyguard), Helena Bonham Carter and various background warrior apes.
Costume Tests (1:33) ^ In these four screens you can see the early costumes of Mark Wahlberg’s space suit, Tim Roth in full Thade getup, Helena Bonham Carter’s dress, or savage humans in ‘savage wear’.
Group Tests (2:37) ^ In the top left corner are the stars with Paul Giamatti most prominent, random warrior Apes in the parking lot, random warrior apes running around a throne (oh…kay), and two large apes arguing with each other.
Stunt Test (4:11) ^ The only full-screen video of the Screen Test footage features rehearsal footage from the jungle chase scene near the beginning of the film. Comprised of tests regarding the human nets, running apes tests, falling apes tests and more, this amusing little extra gets a little long in the tooth but is nevertheless interesting.
Movement Tests (1:46) ^ Helena Bonham Carter is featured first, Estella Warren (ie, the life-like mannequin), Tim Roth and finally Michæl Clarke Duncan with others around him.
Chimp Symphony Op. 37 (9:37) ^ Being the music/soundtrack geek that I am, I absolutely loved this feature. Including footage of the first day of recording sessions for the film we learn Danny Elfman’s writing style, how hard he works on title themes and discover that the same stage was used for Jerry Goldsmith’s score on the first Planet of the Apes.
On Location at Lake Powell (11:57) ^ Shot in November 2000, we go behind the scenes on the setup of the riverside ape encampment. Interviews are included with Mark Wahlberg and Tim Roth, both expressing their love for Tim Burton, and Michæl Clarke Duncan walks us through most of the set in Page, Arizona, where we learn that this same location was also utilized for the original POTA. Too bad the set didn’t help make the movie any better.
Swinging from the Trees (9:31) ^ Terry Notary, Sonny Tipton along with Charlie Croughwell are back, setting up and performing stunts. What’s interesting here is that all of these guys talk about the movie in pre-release terms, which of course they have to-the DVD was completed three days before the film’s release.
Multi-Angle Featurettes ^ In this feature we have five different scenes, each with different angle/audio setups. There are up to three angles per segment within the five scenes, or you can view a composite which shows all of the angles on one screen, though of course sized down to fit. There audio options that correspond to the number of angles, though you can only choose an audio channel if you choose composite from the video options. For example, if you chose to see angle 1, audio channel 1 would automatically be chosen. If you chose composite, you would then be asked to listen to audio channels 1-3 (where applicable).
All of these scenes also feature a Navigation Bar at the bottom of the screen with the options of viewing artwork on the scene, reading the shooting script of the segment or viewing the final film version. Whoa!
Limbo’s Quandrangle ^ Limbo, the comic relief for the picture, has three segments available, all having to do with the arrival of the human’s near the start of the film.
The Latest Shipment (5:11) ^ There are three angles and three audio options here.
Branded (3:03) ^ Three angles are available here…
A pet for a chimp (2:55) ^ In what could possibly be my favorite sequence of the movie is available with only 2 angles and audio tracks.
Sandar’s House ^ The senator’s house is filled with all sorts of interesting characters, set designs and artwork. There are five segments available to view.
Wild Humans (1:57) ^ Two angles and audio tracks are available here, taking place during parts of the dinner scene, both angles are behind the camera.
Leo and Dæna in the Kitchen (0:56) ^ Thankfully short, we have three angles of the shooting of this shot scene in the kitchen where Mark Wahlberg and Estella Warren try to “act”.
Dinner (3:37) ^ Presented here is the rest of the dinner scene with only one angle and audio track.
Escape from Ape City (2:54) ^ Two angles are available here and there are no segment breakdowns. Included in this footage is the breaking of the cage, the run through the senator’s home, and Kris Kristofferson and his spear of flame. Interesting stuff from both sides of the camera.
In the Forest (2:48) ^ Three angles and audio tracks are here, involving the walk through the forest where Wahlberg reveals how apes are treated on Earth and whatnot.
Extended Scenes ^ Featuring workprint, time-encoded footage that has certainly seen better days, there are four scenes available here. All of this video is basically unwarranted stuff, and is here for thoroughness only.
Launch the Monkey (1:13) ^ The space crew discusses the electromagnetic storm in greater detail than is in the final film. They cut this down for a reason, trust me.
Dinner (1:17) ^ The dinner scene in the senator’s house continues with the senator and a fellow ape discussing old age and how nice their summer homes are.
Kill Them All (0:59) ^ Thade and Michæl Clarke Duncan’s character discuss the disappearance of Bonham Carter and the others in further detail.
She’s a Chimpanzee! (0:54) ^ In what is probably the most unintentionally hilarious ‘scene’ included, Estella Warren gets jealous of Ari, Helena Bonham Carter’s character, and her attraction to Leo (Wahlberg). It really must be seen to believe how bad it is. I wished they hadn’t cut this; it probably would’ve ended up the funniest part of the film.
Promotional Works ^ With this being the tentpole of Fox’s summer movie schedule, there was more marketing done for this film than any other in their studio lot. With all of the material gathered here, there is undoubtedly even more they could not include, but what is included is substantial. Take a look.
HBO Special (The Making of Planet of the Apes) (26:40) ^ Michæl Clarke Duncan, milking this role for every second of screen-time he can, takes us on a day in his life. We see him get up early, get prepared in make-up, get dressed and see him on the set, and then we watch him get the make-up taken off. Quickly edited and mixed with a bouncy soundtrack, a lot of this footage seems to be recycled from other special features on the disc. Or should that be vice versa? One long commercial, there is little substance found here. It follows the basic Cover-The-Plot, Explain-Your-Role, Random-Footage-Quick-Cuts, Everyone-Gets-Excited and then the Trailer-Like-Ending. It’s paint by numbers EPK!
Paul Oakenfold – “Rule the Planet Remix” ^ The MTV Music Video in full frame and 2.0 Stereo, this techno mess of thick bass and film clips allows you to witness the bastardizing of a great score before your very eyes.
Trailers and TV Spots ^ -Teaser (0:59) ^ The first theatrical teaser is presented in anamorphic widescreen and 2.0 Stereo. I have to admit it’s a great teaser, with just enough footage to get excited about.
-Trailer (2:11) ^ The full theatrical trailer compounds on the teaser to provide enough tantalizing footage to make you want to see the film. Whoever complied this did an excellent job, and I commend them for it. How did they take a crappy flick and make a great two minutes? Watch and find out.
-TV Spots (0:31 each) ^ Here are the TV Spots for the film with some airing before it was released and some after. They are entitled: “Event Revisited”, “Let’s Go Alt.”, “Bio Event Revisited/Eyes”, “Planet Alt./Eyes”, “Buzz Alt.” Curiously we have “Alt.” versions, alternative versions, of TV spots though the originals aren’t included.
Moulin Rouge (2:34) ^ The excellent trailer for the Baz Luhrmann flick presented in anamorphic widescreen and 2.0 Stereo.
Dr. Dolittle 2 (1:34) ^ The lame Eddie Murphy film has a pretty funny trailer, in anamorphic widescreen and 2.0 Stereo.
-Music Promo (0:31) ^ A TV commercial for the soundtrack. God bless commercialism, eh?
DVD-ROM ^ Since I don’t have a DVD-ROM drive (yet), I can’t adequately review this section.
Gallery ^ Broken into two sections are literally hundreds of photos for all areas of production.
Scenes ^ This includes The Oberon, Derkien, Calima, Jungle, Ape Tents, Human Tents & Effigies, and Storyboards.
Props ^ Flags, Furniture, Lab, Lighting, Transportation, Various Wardrobe, and Weapons are available to see.
And that’s it folks. The only thing left out of this set is a partridge in a pear tree. David Prior again takes DVD to new heights, with the weight of these extras almost more than any DVD fan such as myself can stand. The folks at Fox have again raised the bar, though you just wish they’d have picked a better film to pull out all the stops.
RATINGS ^ OVERALL (DVD, homepage rating): * * * * – 4 Stars ^ MOVIE: * * – 2 Stars ^ VIDEO: * * * * ½ – 4.5 Stars ^ AUDIO: * * * * ½ – 4.5 Stars ^ EXTRAS: * * * * ½ – 4.5 Stars