With about as much spectacle as a vacuum-packed space meal, Tim Burton has unleashed a shockingly dull reinterpretation of Pierre Boulle's brilliant 1963 satire The Planet of the Apes. Boulle, who was a prisoner of war in Saigon, used his Monkey Planet (the original English title) as a metaphor for internment and it's dehumanizing effects on the psyche.
One of the most interesting things about the novel is that Boulle fleshed out the three main classifications of apes (Chimpanzees, Gorillas, and Orangutans, representing science, war, and faith). Unlike the original movie, Burton's film haphazardly mixes these tribes with the Chimps waging war and Gorillas as rational thinkers, while he devotes very little screen time at all for the Orangutans.
Another deviation from the original text lies in the power of speech; apes have it and humans don't. The only speaking human in the novel was astronaut/narrator Ulysse Mèrou, who describes the humans he encounters as "resembling us in every way from the physical point of view but who appeared to be completely devoid of the power of reason." The updated film has so many talking humanoids assisting Mark Wahlberg's character (Leo) that this powerful theme is lost--dumbed down for mass-consumption.
In the novel, the humans wore no clothing. This was a central concern of Ulysse, who had to address the entire ape council without even a loincloth. Finally being able to dress as the apes was a major victory for him. It's puzzling then that Leo is left in his tattered spacesuit throughout Burton's film; his dress severely limits our sense that the apes are in a position of psychological power over the humans. Boulle also portrays his apes as apes--dressing them in human attire, but not anthropomorphizing them in appearance, as has been done in the film versions.
Understandably, Burton's apes are more apelike because of advancements in makeup and digital effects processing. And in comparison with the previous films, Burton's apes jump and run in a realistic fashion, giving some credibility to his apes' appearance as apes, instead of men in ape suits. But what good is makeup if the characters have nothing interesting to say or do?
There was definitely something lost in Burton's translation of the novel and it shows. This Ape lacks a soul.