Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes Review
20th Century Studios

From 2011 to 2017, we were graced with an incredibly thoughtful, emotional, and action-fueled trilogy that relaunched the Planet of the Apes franchise that first started back in the ’60s. It has been expanded through many mediums, such as films, TV, books, and comics. Now, in 2024, director Wes Ball has begun what looks to be another trilogy with Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, and for the most part, it delivers a tall order considering how we left the Apes franchise seven years ago.

Set generations after the time of Caesar, we follow Noa (Owen Teague) and a quest that takes many twists and turns, both physically and mentally. While at home, he is part of a community called the Eagle Clan and encounters a strange human female named Mae (Freya Allan). While outside the camp, he discovers a known band of aggressive and troublesome mask-wearing apes led by Proximus Caesar (Kevin Durand). He is hunting Mae for reasons we’ll discover later. Upon finding the clan’s camp, they kill Noa’s father, destroy everything they can, and take all the surviving apes back to their home base. It is here where Noa’s adventure truly begins. 

Through the eye of cinematographer Gyula Pados, we follow Noa as he meets an orangutan named Raka (Peter Macon), who lets Noa in on some real truths of the world, including information about Caesar and how Proximus is twisting his teaching to suit his needs. Not long after, Mae comes looking for food, and soon we have three traveling companions, all looking for the same thing and completely different things, all at the same time. 

The final act of Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes offers beautiful visuals and great action sequences but, more importantly, some complex and difficult questions to ponder. How can apes and humans get along? Can they learn to live together at all? At what point does one or both species adopt the sins of the past and use technology to their advantage? The movie does not give us answers but instead poses questions in engaging ways that make you think. 

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The first part of this movie dragged a bit, as it is methodical in the way it told its story. It is retrospective in parts, looking back as much as looking forward, making things plod along at times. This is where the previous trilogy, especially Matt Reeves’ Dawn of the Planet Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes, has an edge, with a darker tone and more grandeur sense of tragedy. Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is more of an adventure story than anything else, a road trip to a specific destination that leads to many hidden truths along the way. To that end, the movie pulls it off well, but I never sensed the dark, foreboding sense of danger as I did with Reeves’ films.

However, there is a lot to like here. Ball does an admirable job of making things interesting during the trek to the final act. We are introduced to a new timeline, a new community, and many new characters. Soona (Lydia Peckham) and Anaya (Travis Jeffery) are perfect companions for Noa, giving different perspectives, while the motion capture continues to be excellent and believable. While the first half of the movie might move slowly in spots, there are times when it’s a necessary evil to serve the rest of the film. The climax features epic action scenes and plenty of dialogue to chew on. Of course, there is much more to be told here.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is everything you want in a big blockbuster, and the future seems bright for this franchise. However, it is still unclear if the human race has learned how not to be its own worst enemy. 


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