Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: Because it’s Simpsons Week at The A.V. Club, we’re recommending films featuring key contributors to the series, from actors to writers to a certain famed composer.
We’re going to bend the rules of Watch This a little today to talk about Danny Elfman, a movie you probably shouldn’t watch, and what soundtrack CDs used to label the “main title.” Elfman, formerly the frontman of new-wave weirdos Oingo Boingo, became something of a household name in the 1990s, known for his eminently hummable, immediately recognizable scores for countless Tim Burton movies, and, of course, for his theme to The Simpsons. He remains in-demand, but nowhere near as prominent, in part because Hollywood tastes have shifted in the direction of Hans Zimmer-esque repetition, but also because the long opening title sequence—something Elfman excels at scoring—has fallen out of favor in both film and TV.
Modern blockbusters aren’t big on opening credits; some don’t even have as much as an opening title. Marvel, for its part, has succeeded in building an audience cult around end credits, usually starting with an animated sequence structured like one of the opening titles of yesteryear, and throwing in a stinger to ensure viewers stay through the end. Back in the 1990s and 2000s, though, big- and low-budget productions alike generally started with three solid minutes of music and moving text—something to settle the viewer in and get them excited for the movie to come.
This is where Tim Burton’s misguided 2001 take on Planet Of The Apes comes in—more specifically, its opening credits sequence. Designed by Robert Dawson—who also designed the once-iconic opening credits for Batman Returns—and set to one of Elfman’s more aggressive and sinister themes, the sequence is an object lesson in pre-show hype, playing up the film’s admittedly overqualified cast and the involvement of such big-name behind-the-scenes talents as effects designer Rick Baker and costume designer Colleen Atwood.
The camera moves slowly over the surface of one of Atwood’s ape armors, savoring the eccentric details and promising a much better movie than the one that follows. Like the jaunty, mischievous music that accompanies the opening of The Simpsons, Elfman’s martial, confident theme settles the viewer into the world Planet Of The Apes is trying to create—a world that falls apart as soon as the credits end and the audience is treated to Mark Wahlberg talking to a chimp.
Availability: Planet Of The Apes is available on DVD and Blu-Ray, which can be obtained from your local video store/library, or to rent or purchase through the major digital services. The opening sequence is embedded below.