Planet of the Apes appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Overall, the presentation seemed generally excellent.
Across the board, sharpness appeared terrific. The movie consistently came across as tight and well defined. Virtually no instances of softness marred this crisp and detailed piece. Some slight instances of jagged edges and shimmering occurred, and I discerned a smidgen of edge enhancement; however, none of these caused real concerns. I noticed virtually no instances of source flaws in this clean transfer.
Given the film’s jungle setting, Apes maintained a fairly green palette. The DVD demonstrated these tones quite well and displayed satisfying definition. The various colors looked rich and dynamic at all times. Blacks also seemed tight and deep, while low-light shots offered good clarity and visibility without excessive opacity. Only minor nits can be picked from this solid image.
For this release of Planet of the Apes, we got both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. To my moderate surprise, the DTS mix presented substantially superior sonics. I’ll discuss it first and then relate the differences I detected between the two.
From start to finish, the DTS version depicted a very active and involving soundfield. All five channels benefited from well-defined and vivid use. Elements seemed appropriately placed within the spectrum and created a nice feeling of environment. Effects moved cleanly across the channels and popped up from all over the realm. The surrounds added a terrific feeling of place, as they frequently provided useful and unique information.
Audio quality appeared excellent. Speech consistently sounded natural and distinctive. I noticed no signs of edginess or issues connected to intelligibility, as the lines always worked well. Music sounded vibrant and dynamic, with bright highs and firm lows. Effects also appeared crisp and detailed, and they presented solid range. Bass response was stellar, as the track featured tight and deep low-end material.
How did the Dolby track compare? It seemed a little emasculated and failed to deliver the same sense of power and punch. The surrounds played a less active role and the different channels integrated less cleanly and smoothly. Bass response was weaker and boomier. On its own, the Dolby mix seemed generally solid, but it came up short when compared with the excellent DTS version. As such, I gave the DTS track an “A” but the Dolby one fell to a “B+”.
This two-DVD edition of Planet of the Apes comes stuffed with extras, some of which appear on the first disc. We begin with an audio commentary from director Tim Burton, who offers a running, screen-specific piece. Burton’s previous tracks seemed fairly spotty, and his offering here suffered from some of the same concerns. However, Burton provided enough information to make this a generally good piece.
Burton covered a nice mix of issues during his commentary. He related how he became involved in the flick and went over many other topics. Burton discussed his take on the project, different make-up and effects issues, working with the actors, and other facets of the production. He provided some fun anecdotes and also gave his general thoughts about things like the use of computer graphics in movies. While the commentary featured too many empty spaces, Burton nonetheless, offered an engaging and lively chat when he did speak.
In addition, we find a commentary and isolated score that includes remarks from composer Danny Elfman. Actually, this doesn’t offer a fully isolated score. We get most of the music on its own, but Elfman occasionally speaks over it, and some effects elements sporadically pop up as well. This will likely act as a moderate annoyance to movie music fans.
For those of us who like audio commentaries, though, Elfman’s remarks provide an enjoyable affair. Given the nature of the piece, he only shows up occasionally, but when he talks, Elfman offers very interesting material. He only lightly addresses his specific work on Apes, as he relates some information about those elements. Instead, Elfman mainly gets into his general thoughts about movie music as well as his working processes. This may sound vague, but Elfman gives us a great look at these areas. He seems passionate and lively and he provides some amusing stories, such as his struggles to write music on an airplane. Even though Elfman doesn’t talk a whole lot, this still becomes a solid commentary.
DVD One also includes an Enhanced Viewing Mode. With this activated, two things will happen. First, inset boxes will show up periodically as you watch the film. These include a mix of materials. We see shots from the set as well as quick soundbites from participants. We hear from co-screenwriter Lawrence Konner, actors Estella Warren, Helena Bonham Carter, Tim Roth, Glenn Shadix, David Warner, Erick Avari, Evan Dexter Parke, Luke Eberl, and Mark Wahlberg, costume designer Colleen Atwood, and second unit director Andy Armstrong.
In addition, at times an icon will appear on screen. Hit “enter” to branch off and get information about the visual effects. We see the creation of various elements and learn more about their execution via short video vignettes.
The “Extended Viewing Mode” sounds like a good idea, but it only seems sporadically successful. Much of the material is fairly bland, and the snippets show up too infrequently to make a real dent. We don’t find much footage, most of which appears during the first half of the flick. This mode adds a little useful information, but don’t expect a lot from it.
Cast and Crew Profiles provides material about a variety of participants. In the former domain, we find short biographies for actors Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helend Bonham Carter, Michael Clarke Duncan, Kris Kristofferson, Estella Warren, Paul Giamatti, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, David Warner, Lisa Marie, Erick Avari, Luke Eberl, and Evan Dexter Parke. Oddly, the entries for Linda Harrison and Glenn Shadix just list filmographies with no other information. When we look at the crew area, we discover notes about director Burton, producer Richard D. Zanuck, executive producer Ralph Winter, writers William Broyles Jr., Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal, production designer Rick Heinrichs, director of photography Philippe Rousselot, special make-up effects artist Rick Baker, costume designer Colleen Atwood, editor Chris Lebenzon, and composer Danny Elfman.
A few of the “Cast and Crew Profiles” include video footage. For Warren, Avari, and Eberl, we get their first auditions. Oddly, these are stuck in tiny inset boxes, but they’re still cool to see.
Lastly, DVD One features the THX Optimizer. Also found on many other DVDs, this purports to help you set up your system for the best reproduction of both picture and sound, ala stand-alone programs such as Video Essentials. I’ve never tried the Optimizer since I’m happy with my settings, but if you don’t own something such as Essentials, the Optimizer may help you improve picture and audio quality.
Tons of extras show up on DVD Two. A slew of these appear under the banner of “The Making of the Apes”. Up first we get a documentary called Simian Academy. In this 24-minute and seven-second program and the DVD’s other featurettes, we see a great deal of behind the scenes video plus interviews. Here we get notes from stunt performer and movement coach Terry Notary, stunt coordinator Charlie Croughwell, head chimp trainer Mike Alexander, chimp trainer Nerissa Politzer, and actors Paul Giamatti and Helena Bonham Carter, We watch the humans learn how to act like apes and the chimps taught to behave like humans. The former elements dominate the show; we check out the work done with both the primary actors as well as the extras. The footage from the sessions is simply terrific. The interviews add some depth to the discussion, but the candid shots from the training offers the greatest strength here, as we get a great feel for what the participants did.
The DVD’s longest individual piece, Face Like a Monkey fills 29 minute and 42 seconds. As implied by the title, it covers ape visual design. We hear from Tim Burton and special make-up designer Rick Baker. They discuss casting for specific kinds of faces, issues with Tim Roth’s facial structure, and topics connected to design and implementation of the elements. Again, the behind the scenes footage highlights the program. We watch Michael Clarke Duncan go through the various body-casting processes and also see them put Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and Paul Giamatti through their extended make-up ordeals. We check out footage from the set during the shooting of the climactic simian battle and also learn about the make-up removal process. Overall, this program covers the make-up elements well and does so in an entertaining manner.
After this we find Ape Couture, a six and a half minute examination of the film’s costumes. We get notes from costume designer Colleen Atwood as she discusses visual looks both specific and general plus what it’s like to work with a visually talented director like Burton. It’s another informative and educational piece.
Five smaller subsections pop up under Screen Tests. These include “Make-Up Tests” (three minutes, 45 seconds), “Costume Tests” (93 seconds), “Group Tests” (two minutes, 37 seconds), “Stunt Test” (four minutes, 12 seconds) and “Movement Tests” (one minute, 46 seconds). All buts the “Stunt Test” split into “quads”; that means we see four different images per screen. This is a little awkward, as it makes the footage awfully small. Still, there’s a lot of great material on display here, and at least we get the option to hear the original audio for each session, when it exists; the DVD lets you change soundtracks on the fly.
For a little information about the score, we head to Chimp Symphony, Op. 37. In this nine-minute and 37-second program, composer Elfman chats about his work and we also see some footage from the orchestral recording sessions. Although Elfman already covered a lot of information in his commentary, this piece presents additional exploration of the subject, so it merits a look.
After this we go On Location: Lake Powell. The 11-minute and 57-second featurette includes some remarks from executive producer Ralph Winter, production designer Rick Heinrichs, and actors Luke Eberl, Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth and Michael Clarke Duncan. We learn that Lake Powell also featured prominently in the original flick, though apparently the new movie used different areas. We also get some details about the location as well as notes about its challenges. As usual, the candid video offers the best elements, as we see some nice behind the scenes footage.
Finally, Swinging From the Trees ends “The Making of the Apes”. It fills nine minute and 31 seconds as it looks at specific stunts. We find information from stunt performers and movement coaches Terry Notary and Sonny Tipton as well as stunt coordinator Charlie Croughwell. This shows looks at the methods used to make the apes leap and fling through the jungle. It’s another solid evaluation of the topic, once again highlighted by great video shots.
Once we leave “The Making of the Apes”, we go to a series of Multi-Angle Featurettes. This presents four different segments. All of them show at least two angles plus a composite, and they also feature multiple audio options. “Limbo’s Quadrangle” and “Sandar’s House” provide three different segments each, while “Escape from Ape City” and “In the Forest” consist of only one scene apiece. The additional audio simply connects to the different angles, so there’s one track per angle.
To call these “featurettes” seems like a stretch, as they consist solely of video footage from the set. Whatever we title them, they offer some fun glimpses behind the scenes. They allow us to get a good look at the production and seem quite entertaining and valuable. In addition to the video footage, each scene includes additional optional materials. We can check out “Production Art”, watch the scene as depicted in the finished film, or read it in the script. Overall, the “Multi-Angle Featurettes” add a lot of useful information to the package.
Next we locate five Extended Scenes. These fill from 43 seconds to 77 seconds for a total of five minutes, six seconds of material. Don’t expect much from these slivers of extra material. I found it tough to tell the difference between them and the finished sequences from the movie, as they add very little.
Within “Promotional Works” we find a mix of pieces. An HBO Special runs 26 minutes and 41 seconds and presents itself as “a day in the life of Michael Clarke Duncan” on the film set. It follows parts of his experience and also gives us the standard mix of materials, with movie clips, shots from the set, and interviews. In addition to Duncan, we hear from director Burton, actors Wahlberg, Roth, Carter, Warren, and Giamatti, producer Richard D. Zanuck, stunt coordinator Croughwell, movement coach Notary, make-up designer Baker, production designer Heinrichs, costume designer Atwood, second unit director Andy Armstrong, and executive producer Winter.
Despite the “day in the life” elements, this special is little more than the usual promotional stuff. We get notes on the story and hear about how great everyone is and how spectacular everything will be. Even the more interesting behind the scenes elements appear elsewhere and are better presented there. The special seems redundant and fairly useless given the wealth of more detailed extras on the disc. If you don’t want to bother with those, this show offers a passable summary, but it pales in comparison with the depth seen elsewhere.
A music video for Paul Oakenfold’s “Rule the Planet Remix” fills two minutes, 56 seconds. This combines Oakenfold’s sound collage with movie clips. It’s not very interesting.
We get both teaser and theatrical trailers as well as six TV spots. This area also provides ads for Dr. Dolittle 2 and Moulin Rouge. Posters & Press Kit presents a still gallery with 60 frames of images and text. Lastly, a Music Promo simply runs a 30-second ad for the soundtrack album.
More still materials show up in the Gallery. This splits into 15 subdomains: “The Oberon” (21 stills), “Derkien” (72), “Calima” (23), “Jungle” (25), “Ape Tents” (43), “Human Tents and Effigies” (11), “Storyboards” (591 drawings over 296 frames), “Flags” (14), “Furniture” (78), “Lab” (56), “Lighting” (64), “Transportation” (17), “Various” (71), “Wardrobe” (35), and “Weapons” (51). Not counting all those storyboards, this adds up to 581 images. These are all technical in nature and very detail-oriented. That makes them valuable if you like to see the various minute elements.
DVD-ROM users will find a few additional components. These include a feature to compare the original scripts with storyboards and the final film as well as “Leo’s Logbook”, a “graphic record” of Captain Davidson’s days on the planet of the apes. In addition, we find a “Junior Novella”, which provides an excerpt of the tale. It’s a decent little collection.
Overall, Planet of the Apes provides a sporadically intriguing update on the original, but it lacks that flick’s coherence and vision. Instead, it substitutes good looks for brains, and it seems generally lackluster. The DVD presents excellent picture and sound, and it packs a very fine roster of extras as well. Apes offers a stellar DVD, but since the movie itself remains mediocre, I find it tough to give it more than a mild recommendation.