Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes Review

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Rating: 4.5/5

Synopsis:

The “Planet of the Apes” franchise has been incredibly consistent over the years. After the previous trilogy, I had a hard time believing more movies should be made. They each prioritized quality to develop the most thoughtful story possible. “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” takes place three hundred years after the events of “War for the Planet of the Apes”. Apes have slowly evolved to become the dominant species while humans have reverted to primitive ways. After his clan is taken captive, a young ape named Noa goes on a dangerous journey to free his family. He learns of Proximas Caesar, an ape with ambitious intentions of acquiring knowledge to eliminate the human race. Along the way, he meets an educated ape named Raka who follows the teachings of Caesar. They also encounter a developed human named Mae. The three of them find themselves in a complicated moral conundrum, where the tensions between humans and apes continue to fester. Can Noa free his clan from Proximas? Or will historical revelations complicate Noa’s mission?

Positives: 

I remember my first exposure to the “Apes” movies. I couldn’t believe how thoughtful, rich, and intense they were. They have slowly become some of my favorite films. The consistency they display when crafting stories is very impressive. Sure the special effects and action are great, but the premise is what excels the most. I’m thrilled to report that “Kingdom” continues this trend in spades! Wes Ball takes over for Matt Reeves in the director’s chair this time. I love that he brings a unique style to the film, adopting a tone with more intrigue and curiosity. The world building is incredible. Ball decides to separate the previous franchise from this one by many years which allows the story to feel fresh. Much respect is paid to Caesar and the films that came before it too. A perfect balance is struck, taking inspiration from previous films while going in a new direction. Credit to everyone involved in writing such a rich story!

The strong story is bolstered by lots of thematic exploration. Caesar’s presence still lingers within the different ape factions. What’s interesting is that each clan has interpreted his teachings differently, highlighted by Raka and Proximus’ clashing ideologies. Some clans follow his teaching with peace and curiosity while others use it to gain power and exemplify ape superiority. Then there’s Noa’s clan, who have never heard of Caesar. The evolution of apes and the many cultures within their race is fascinating to unpack. In many ways it resembles the cultural differences within humanity. I believe most audiences will be able to relate to this. Another interesting aspect that is explored is how history gets warped over time. Since the apes have no reliable technology to document Caeser’s teachings, worth of mouth is the main way to carry on past events. Every ideology views Caesar as a godlike figure in some way but each uses their own spin on it. Fascinating how someone’s reality can be altered depending on how events are portrayed. I enjoyed seeing how over time the apes and humans have evolved in different ways. The apes, wanting their chance at being the dominant species, clash with the humans who are fighting to regain their dominance. The grey area in each moral compass lingers throughout the film. No one is right and no one is wrong. The complex emotions and conflict are thought provoking. I can’t wait to see where the story unfolds in the future!

I can’t forget the performances either. Owen Teague gives a wonderful performance as our new protagonist. He brings a sense of humanity and dedication, doing whatever is necessary to bring justice to his clan. He also struggles with moral conundrums like Caesar did. I’m excited to see where his journey goes next! Mae also adds an interesting bend to the story as the prominent human. She has an important role as she is one of the few humans in the movie. I believe the bulk of her journey will come in future movies. Raka is a great character that provides levity in Noa’s journey. The wisdom he passes down from Caesar matches his charisma and wit. But Kevin Durand’s performance as Proximus Caesar commanded my attention every time he was on screen. He is phenomenal, creating a morally complex villain who truly tests our hero. He is different from Koba in the previous films, where his power and influence has grown over the years. He is very charismatic as his ambitions and influence provide him with opportunities not seen in previous movies. Each character brings something great to the story and I’m looking forward to seeing where each of them go in the future!

The special effects are on full display as well. The previous trilogy raised the bar in crafting motion capture technology to immerse the audience in this world. That continues here, creating some of the most impressive visual effects I’ve ever seen. From the hair on the ape’s bodies to the clarity of their eyes, the details never falter. Even the scenery and world building is expanded to a degree that I didn’t know was possible. Every ounce of this technology is utilized to the highest degree. IMAX or Dolby is absolutely the best format to experience the film. It’s amazing that this has a smaller budget than most superhero movies. Just shows how the right crew can utilize special effects the right way. I commend the “Planet of the Apes” films for continuing to raise the bar in this department. 

Negatives: 

There isn’t much I can criticize about “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes”. The flaws are pretty small compared to the achievements made here. The massive world building and connections between the film are no small feat. The film tries to do a lot within its two and a half hour runtime. I’d say the pacing is the main issue. There are lots of slower sequences that are designed to explore this new environment. The film is undoubtedly setting up for future stories. Those hoping for more action and spectacle may get antsy as the story takes its time unraveling. I personally didn’t mind this as each moment has a purpose. Just a disclaimer for those who don’t like longer runtimes or prefer fast paced stories. There’s a lot going on too, especially in the third act. The many ideas and themes being examined begin to feel jumbled by the end. I can only hope they continue to develop them in future movies or else they may feel wasted. The score is also underwhelming compared to the previous trilogy. It doesn’t hit the same emotional beats, leaving some scenes with less emotional punch. Hopefully the next films can craft a score as good as Caesar’s.

Conclusion:

The “Apes” franchise has another winner here. It perfectly bridges the previous films into a storyline that will lead into the original. The motion capture performances are phenomenal, making us believe we are in this world with the apes. Each frame is absolutely stunning. The actors commit to bringing us a strong story too, bringing fresh characters that I can’t wait to see in future films. It is one of those sequels that leaves audiences wanting more rather than feeling burnt out by the end. Credit to director Wes Ball for crafting a story that stands on its own but honors the legacy of the previous films. I’d highly recommend checking this out on a premium screen. This is what theater experiences are all about. Apes together strong!