Okay, so this issue of awful, gratuitous, mercenary, hack, visionless remakes has been plaguing me lately, and I think I’ve realized what it would take to ease my ire. A change in goddamn vocabulary. What is a remake? What is a re-imagining? Why would you make either? The Day The Earth Stood Still. Is it a remake? Or is it a ripoff.
I watched Burton’s Planet of the Apes today. Yes, yes, I know. WHY?!, you must be asking. OH SWEET HOLY JESUS, WHY? Well, because it was on and I was getting ready for work. And as I watched, I thought, You know, for a movie- for a borderline campy scifi action flick that wants to say something about the human condition, but bluntly and without finesse, and then just focus back on the whacky monkey-filled fun… It’s a decent flick. It’s got amusing performances, neat makeup and effects, and an intrinsically clever, if extremely far fetched and all put impossible (surely improbable) plot line.
Man chases chimp through wormhole to other world. Man causes lots of trouble by leading an extremely small-scale rebellion. Man unwittingly provides evil Ape-men with the means to become evil Ape-men in the first place. It’s all fuzzled in the way that time-travel tends to fuzzle things, because HOW HOW HOWHOWHOWHOWHOW WHAT? But, that given, it works. Burton makes it work in what is possible the least-subtle of all of his filmic endeavors. The Nightmare Before Christmas is like Tolstoy compared to the Beverly Cleary of Planet of the Apes.
Now, where the movie fails is, it was billed as a remake. It’s not awesome, it’s okay, but where it fails, is, it’s seen as being a remake. It isn’t a remake. It’s an exploration of an idea in a different way and with… significantly less seriousness. So, the movie was advertised, thought of, and reviewed as a remake. And it isn’t. If the events of the movie didn’t badly stretch any possibility that Taylor exists out there in the universe and is going to land and discover the wild kingdom, there, it would at best be an ill-thought out prequel, but it sure as shit isn’t a remake.
When you watch Burton’s PotA, all the big HOMG moments are missing. Everyone talks. So there’s no supremely satisfying moment of ‘Yeah, looks who’s talking NOW, you damned dirty ape!’. There’s no reveal, there’s no shock. There’s also no complexity to the ‘political intrigue’. The whole movie is intensely shallow. There’s no TRIAL. There’s no political procedure, no suspense. It’s a lot of running around and making grunting or, alternately, shrieking noises. And it’s Marky Mark being the High Lord Douchebag of all Douchebags. “Humans suck. I am one, I should know.“ “Back home, your bright red naked ass would be in a zoo, where it belongs.” “Smart monkey Helena-Bonham Carter is ugly. Stoopid trout-pout blond chick is hot, but also worthless. Kris Kristofferson, you’re a boring old guy. Check out how awesome I am at wielding a branding iron.” Also, for a man who has worked professionally with APES for a LONG ASS time, he really does insist on calling them monkeys. Wtf. Douchebag. So, yeah, seriously, he’s just a worthless human being of a main character. And what’s surprising about the total lack of depth in every single character is that Burton’s main interest in life, i.e. the role of outsiders in community, this movie should be a great showcase for that. Watching, it feels like he sort of doesn’t … care. I don’t know. It’s a weird movie.
And then the ending, dear god. So Thane aka Rothmonkey gets in little lost chimp’s pod and goes to Earth and facilitates the genetic engineering of apes then instigates their uprising and then BOOM you got Aperman Lincoln. So.
Is this a remake?
No. No. Patently not. Not even kind of. Nothing happens the same. The characters aren’t the same. It’s not a remake. So… why can’t we have more of those?
If you’re doing a remake, Earth, Right One, every remake of a Japanese horror flick ever released in the US- why not just rip off the idea? Re-appropriate for a different audience, culturally or chronologically. Don’t use the same character names. You’re sure as shit not using the same characters.
I kind of feel obligated to mention that I goddamn love the Wahlbergs. Mark and Donnie- Boogie Nights and Band of Brothers. Respect.