Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes Review

The reboot trilogy of The Planet of the Apes has not only revitalized the franchise but also helped innovate filmmaking with its motion capture to create this world with performances from its lead actors as these simian beings. With the legacy that these films have built, the studio hopes to continue with its latest installment Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes. With Wes Ball taking the helm as director, he has a tall order to recapture what made the films great with the same film technology to capture the magic of those movies. It’s safe to say that it is now in good hands as the franchise goes in a different direction with new characters and a much-expanded mythology that still should captivate audiences like the previous films.

Taking place three centuries after the previous film, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes follows the legacy of Caesar through the eyes of a tribal ape named Noa (Owen Teague). With Caesar’s teachings spread and lost through time, the apes have formed clans where they have thrived thanks to their heightened intellect and strength while humanity has inverted into a primal state as they fight to survive. As Noa takes the tribunal trials among his clan, he is followed by a young human girl named Mae (Freya Allen). After an attack on his clan by another group of warrior apes, Noa and Mae end up traveling together along the coast where they encounter the leader of the tribe named Proximus (Kevin Durand) who has enslaved Noa’s clan as he searches for human technology to help thrive his people into a new age over his kingdom. What transpires between Noa and Mae is a journey where they must rely on each other to survive as they learn more about where Caesar’s legacy lies in their world.

The modern Planet of the Apes films have excelled in visuals with each installment, which this one also does thanks to Ball’s direction and artistic vision. His previous work in The Maze Runner series has proved that Ball is more than capable of handling a franchise like the Planet of the Apes. The cinematography is also a magnificent achievement in itself as Ball re-teams with his collaborator Gyula Pados as he captures the gorgeous landscape in a world post-Caesar. We also can’t forget how the motion capture technology is utilized well to get the facial expressions off our actors as they imitate the ape’s behavior while acting like smarter versions of these creatures. The action set pieces also feel much more grander with each sequence with some of them paying homage to the original movies that came before.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes has the tough task of creating a new lead after Andy Serkis’ remarkable performance as Caesar, but Owen Teague manages to carry his own with his character Noa. He’s neither a child nor an adult, but Teague does emulate some of the best characteristics of Caesar while also discovering the world outside his tribe. His chemistry with Freya Allen is also well done as we see their interaction between apes and humans like the previous films. There’s a lot more within the surface of Freya’s character as audiences will soon discover. We also get some wisdom from Peter Macon’s character Raca as he emulates some of the same characteristics as Maurice from War for the Planet of the Apes. He provides a bit of humor into the otherwise serious nature of the film at times but carries on the teachings of Caesar that he hopes to spread so it doesn’t remain lost among the apes.

What the film will be perhaps best known for is the spectacular performance from Kevin Durand as the antagonistic leader Proxima Caesar. Each film from the recent trilogy had its fair share of villains, but Durand’s ape leader brings such ferocity to his character. His presence on screen helps elevate the film’s stakes as he derides Caesar’s legacy and twists it to his will to command his kingdom. He acts similar to a Roman general thanks to the knowledge he has gained on humanity’s past. 

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is a great step forward for the franchise as it continues to honor what came before. The film is filled with emotion and action and is a worthy successor of the trilogy with completely new characters and a compelling story that audiences will surely invest in. The film mirrors the real world with humanity’s history and how leaders have shaped them throughout time. It remains consistent with the other films in terms of visuals and performances all around. The film’s coming-of-age story is very layered and continues to captivate with the film’s expanded lore and performances from this top-notch cast. It’s a solid continuation and a strong entry to one of the most impressive sci-fi franchises to date.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes releases in theaters on May 10th, 2024.

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