Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes Review

The Planet of the Apes franchise had a massive resurgence in the mid-2000s thanks to the incredible trilogy of Dawn, Rise and War films, all telling the story of how humans significantly decreased their presence and lost dominance on Earth, only to be overtaken by apes who rose with their intelligence to become the main species on the planet. While these films were sombre and quite intense, they were filled with heart and great characters, making them endearing. Directors Rupert Wyatt and Matt Reeves carved out an unexpected trilogy that delivered incredible special effects from the team at WETA, including an unforgettable genre-defining mo-cap performance by Andy Serkis. With the saga of Caesar long gone, new director Wes Ball (The Maze Runner) steps in to take over directing duties for a new story that continues the big-on-action action legacy while injecting some much-needed humour amongst a cast of new characters you are bound to fall in love with.

The story starts “many generations” after Caesar’s time with a young trio of Apes getting ready for their transition into adulthood. Noa (Owen Teague), Soona (Lydia Peckham), and Anaya (Travis Jeffery) are a clan that raises Eagles, pinching their eggs (but always leaving one!) and raising them. When the trio run into a wayward human Mae (Freya Allen), they unintentionally put their home and clan at the mercy of a group of villainous masked apes, led by Proximus Caesar (Kevin Durand). The clan have seriously twisted Caesar’s ideas, and are slaughtering and enslaving apes and humans in Caesar’s name. Proximus is on a mission to unlock the technology and weapons left behind by humans that are stored in a secure facility and lack the knowledge needed to get inside.

While Noa sets off on a mission to find his captured clan and family, he meets a long orangutan Raka (Peter Macon) who teaches him the true teachings of Caesar, Ape not kill other Ape, and the idea that humans and apes can live side by side. Their journey with Mae explores just how the world and the landscape has changed since Caesar’s time. Raka is the last of the Order of Caesar, a group dedicated to spreading the true teachings of the former leader, and is a great way to bring the audience along from the previous trilogy and hand the torch over to Noa and his clan to continue the ways of Caesar and his clan successfully.

Proximus drags the clan to his base by the ocean on top of a locked-up army base. He has recruited Tevathan (William H Macy) to read books and interpret how to unlock the secure facility. Noa and Mae must team up to stop Proximus from accessing the weapons and free Noa’s clan from their enslavement while taking down Proximus and his army of brain-washed apes.

Ball has taken the reigns of this franchise, boldly pushing it in a new direction, introducing much needed elements like humour we find in a typical blockbuster like this. It really does help show how much the apes have developed into human like behaviour with their speech and how they interact with each other and the world around them. Noa learning the precise context to use the word “Shit” is an incredibly entertaining arc to follow. Similarly Raka garners a lot of laughs from his interaction with Mae and Noa’s naiveite about the world outside of his protected clan. Taking the story a few generations forward also allows us to finally see the Earth dominated by the apes providing an incredibly different landscape from the previous films. The changeup in filming location to Sydney, Australia allows the story to reflect just how much things have changed.

The visual effects is where this film really shines, particularly in the third act. The team from WETA return to the franchise and are led by Erik Winquist who worked on Avatar : The Way of the Water. The mo-cap performances from the actors blend seamlessly with the natural environments to create some of the best effects we have seen in this franchise to date.

Alongside the visuals in the third act are the not-so subtle questions about inter-species existence and if peace between Apes and Humans could ever happen. These build on concerns about modern weapons and war and if we will ever learn any lessons that these films present to our current time reflected back in Kingdom’s pacifist world that appears to be free of guns. While the film doesn’t proceed to present any answers to these questions, it simply sets up an interesting few breadcrumbs for the future of the franchise that we hopefully will see with director Wes Ball at the helm.

Kindgom of the Planet of the Apes is a visual feast, with a bold new story that lifts this world to giddying heights.

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The Planet of the Apes franchise had a massive resurgence in the mid-2000s thanks to the incredible trilogy of Dawn, Rise and War films, all telling the story of how humans significantly decreased their presence and lost dominance on Earth, only to be overtaken...Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes Review