Action Adventure

Review: ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ Heralds a New Era for the Iconic Franchise that Promises to be More Epic than What’s Come Before

May 8, 2024Ben MK

One of most memorable lines of movie dialogue of all time, who can forget Charlton Heston yelling "Get your stinkin' paws off me, you damn dirty ape!" in 1968's Planet of the Apes. Fast forward nearly six decades, and although the series has spent its fair share of time at the campier end of the cinematic spectrum, it has recently reasserted its dominance as one of the sci-fi genre's most dramatic franchises. Thanks to the 2011-2017 Planet of the Apes trilogy, audiences bore witness to an ape protagonist named Caesar, who made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the future of his species. And with Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, director Wes Ball is unveiling the next chapter, as a new hero must race to save his clan from an adversary that poses a threat to both primates and humankind alike.

Set generations after War for the Planet of the Apes, the story follows Noa (Owen Teague), a young simian from a peaceful ape tribe where the elders have chosen not to pass on the teachings of Caesar, but rather to forge a path of their own. Led by Noa's father, Koro (Neil Sandilands), the tribe has been able to thrive by relying on their time-honored traditions of living in harmony with nature. But when they're savagely attacked by a group of masked apes brandishing weapons the likes of which they've never seen before, it sends Noa on a dangerous quest — one that will take him far beyond the reaches of his village and into a new kingdom being raised by a ruthless ape calling himself Proximus Caesar (Kevin Durand). Hellbent on making primates the most powerful species on the planet, Proximus has been using Caesar's name to convince other apes to follow him. What he doesn't count on, however, is Noa, who might just be the only one brave enough to stand up to Proximus' iron fist.

Enter Mae (Freya Allan), a rare human survivor who also happens to be genetically immune to the intellectually degenerative effects of the Simian Flu, and, consequently, someone who's of particular interest to Proximus, who finds himself in need of humans to assist him in accessing a heavily secured vault housing some of mankind's most advanced weapons and technology. Determine to capture Mae and bring her to his oceanside compound, Proximus has dispatched his ape army to search for her. Luckily for Mae, she's able to find Noa first. But before she can win Noa and his new chimpanzee companion, Rakka (Peter Macon), to her side, she'll have to first gain their trust, all while outwitting and outrunning Proximus' vicious soldiers, who will stop at nothing until they've brought their highly coveted human trophy back to their beloved yet unforgiving master.

Written by Josh Friedman, the result bridges the gap between the original Planet of the Apes and the reimagined trilogy, an achievement that not only fulfills the ambitious promise laid out by the series' last installment, but which also makes for some blockbuster cinema. From the expressive visages of the ape characters themselves, which look more photorealistic than ever before, to the tree-lined, moss-covered and rusted-over vistas of what was once one of the largest cities in North America, there's no shortage of impressive sights to behold. Still, what resonates the strongest is the humanity beneath it all, especially the trio of Noa, Mae and Proximus, who together provide the anchor points for the film's themes of good versus evil and twisted morality.

It all adds up to a visionary spectacle that deserves to be seen big and loud. And while it may be hard to fathom a Planet of the Apes entry capable of surpassing the last couple of entries, that's exactly what this latest installment manages to do. A new high bar for the franchise that will certainly be difficult to top, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes isn't a mere sequel or reboot. Rather, it marks the beginning for a new era of the iconic series — one that, from the looks of it, may well be more earth-shattering than anything that's come before.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes releases May 10th, 2024 from 20th Century Studios. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence/action. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 25 min.

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