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REVIEW – ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ is a Roaring Reboot for New and Old Fans

KPA TP2 0055 min

Andy Serkis’ Planet of the Apes films are considered, even today, to be shining examples of how to properly reboot a franchise. The original novel, Planet of the Apes, was released in 1963, and the first film of the same name came out in 1969. The last trilogy of films (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes), not only refreshed the story for modern audiences, but created a lush world that left ample opportunities for future stories to be told.

Now, with Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, director Wes Ball seeks to reboot the franchise once again, carrying the torch that Serkis and the previous cast and crew lit so brightly. Starring Owen Teague, Freya Allan, Kevin Durand, Peter Macon, and William H. Macy, the latest film in the Apes franchise is a roaring success, featuring an intimate character journey set in a new and dangerous timeline. It’s a film that both new viewers and experienced fans can appreciate and enjoy, which is the hallmark of a good franchise restart.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes premieres May 10, 2024 in theaters and tickets are available now. Light spoilers below.

KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES - © 2024 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.
KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES – © 2024 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Official Synopsis

Director Wes Ball breathes new life into the global, epic franchise set several generations in the future following Caesar’s reign, in which apes are the dominant species living harmoniously and humans have been reduced to living in the shadows. As a new tyrannical ape leader builds his empire, one young ape undertakes a harrowing journey that will cause him to question all that he has known about the past and to make choices that will define a future for apes and humans alike.

“Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” is directed by Wes Ball (the “Maze Runner” trilogy) and stars Owen Teague (“IT”), Freya Allan (“The Witcher”), Kevin Durand (“Locke & Key”), Peter Macon (“Shameless”), and William H. Macy (“Fargo”). The screenplay is by Josh Friedman (“War of the Worlds”), based on characters created by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver (“Avatar: The Way of Water”), and the producers are Wes Ball, Joe Hartwick, Jr., p.g.a. (“The Maze Runner”), Rick Jaffa, p.g.a., Amanda Silver, p.g.a., Jason Reed, p.g.a. (“Mulan”), with Peter Chernin (the “Planet of the Apes” trilogy) and Jenno Topping (“Ford v. Ferrari”) serving as executive producers.

REVIEW – A New Ape Era Seen Through New Eyes

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is the first film I have seen in the franchise. Director Wes Ball does a fantastic job of crafting and capturing an engaging story that can resonate with fans and newcomers alike. I imagine the film will feel somewhat like a soft reboot to avid fans of the series. It’s set in this familiar world, but detached from the characters that viewers are familiar with, as it is set hundreds of years in the future. It looks amazing.  

The visual effects in this film are stunning, showcasing top tier work from Wētā FX. Having worked on many films with spectacular visual effects, such as the Lord of the Rings franchise, and James Cameron’s Avatar films, it’s no surprise that Wētā continues to deliver. The animators have done a splendid job of transforming the motion capture work performed by the actors into a finished product that makes it very easy to forget that humans were physically portraying these animals at all. It’s clear that the performers underwent much preparation for their roles, successfully carrying the torch from Andy Serkis and his memorable performances in the previous installments.

(L-R): Raka (played by Peter Macon), Noa (played by Owen Teague) , and Freya Allan as Nova in 20th Century Studios' KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2024 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.
(L-R): Raka (played by Peter Macon), Noa (played by Owen Teague) , and Freya Allan as Nova in 20th Century Studios’ KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2024 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Owen Teague in particular shines as Noa, an ape character who goes through a major personal journey throughout this story. It is very enjoyable to see Noa grow as the film progresses. In the beginning of the film, Noa is a young ape, who doesn’t know much about the world. But by the end of it, he has explored and learned so much; his arc is fully paid off in many respects. Noa’s human co-star, Mae (Freya Allan), is another standout. In a lore shattering twist, Mae is a human who can speak! As someone unfamiliar with the franchise, the idea that humans could not speak was a surprise in its own right. I imagine there are a few other twists for fans of the franchise that will be less of a big deal to a newcomer; which can work both for and against the film. Longtime fans may have issues with a new concept like this human being able to talk, whereas a newcomer wouldn’t even think twice.

For those who are not as familiar with the Planet of the Apes franchise, the film’s opening may feel slow. For much of the first half of the film, the world-building and setting was more of a mystery. I wanted to know more about this world, what the history was, and what exactly was going on. Fortunately, once Noa meeets Raka (Peter Macon), I found that the pieces started to make sense and the world felt much more fleshed out. Raka is a new ape character, who plays a critical role in bridging the gap between the timeline of this new film and the events of the previous trilogy. Raka is an important figure for storytelling purposes as well, helping newcomers to catch up on what the history of this world is like, while also helping existing fans fill in the gaps between film eras. Macon does a wonderful job at being a wise, teacher-like figure who guides Noa on his journey.

Proximus Caesar (played by Kevin Durand) in 20th Century Studios' KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.
Proximus Caesar (played by Kevin Durand) in 20th Century Studios’ KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

By the mid-way point in the film, the pieces are all on the board, and the stakes, as well as the tension, are clearly understood. The core conflict becoming more apparent is incredibly interesting to see unfold. Central to the revelation of the conflict is the film’s antagonist, Proximus Caesar (Kevin Durand). Proximus Caesar is a terrifying figure, and Durand is incredibly intimidating in the role. Durand has a very large and intense on-screen presence; a very important element to complete a film as epic as this.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes feels like a rollercoaster ride. During the climb, you’re curious what is going to come, and what exactly is going on. But once you get to the top and see the conflict (or pieces) that lie ahead, you can’t look away from the screen. The third act is very strong and I found myself wide eyed, on the edge of my seat the entire time; enthralled by the action, cinematography and intensity of the picture. By the film’s climax, the stakes are clearly higher, while also being very personal for characters like Noa. The film has a few unexpected surprises that fans of the franchise will appreciate.

Ultimately, this project is a testament to making a good franchise film that anyone can enjoy. Someone with no experience can enjoy the film while having a completely different viewing experience from that of established fans of the series. Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is an interesting step forward for the series that is sure to leave people wanting more, and I cannot wait to see where the story leads.

RATING – 4/5 Pocky

Pocky Rating 4
IMG 9987 min

Jorgie is a pop culture fan and contributor at POCculture.com. He loves learning about visual effects, production, film, and art, and how they all come together to make films like Star Wars.

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