Review: Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes

The beginning of a new era is a slow one.

Following the events of War of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar’s reign is ancient history. Generations have come and gone, and now apes surpass humans in every regard. But the same prejudices exist, the same cruelties. Can new heroes emerge from this?

Directed by Wes Ball (director of the Maze Runner movies) Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes marks the fourth movie of the recent reboot of the franchise, beginning in 2011. It is astounding that this series now has ten entries in total, including the original 1970s run. Even more incredible is how this series persists with an earnest credibility and agency.
The cast is all changed, the time period is completely changed, and this might be the beginning of a new trilogy. How does it shape up?

The original novel, La Plan├Ęte des singes, written by Pierre Boulle, was the source for the loose movie adaptation in 1968 starring Charlton Heston. In 2011, the film Rise of the Planet of the Apes arrived as a prequel. Ever since then, we have watched a step-by-step devolution of mankind and the evolution of ape-kind, through the two films Dawn and War, and now Kingdom. The visual quality of these films is outstanding, as it would have to be to sell such a premise. Ever since 2011 we have been hurtling towards the end; the era of the original 1968 movie.

Kingdom feels a part of this series, both in looks and in intent. It still has the severity and sincerity of its predecessors. But unlike them, it feels less like a stand alone movie and much more like a cog in a machine.

Still from Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes
Our protagonists cross troubled waters

The film follows the character of Noa, an ape raised as part of the eagle clan; a small group who raise and hunt with eagles. His father, the master of eagles, and his two friends Soona and Anaya, are all he knows. Their clan isn’t even aware of the legendary, historic figure of Caesar. What follows, leads them on an adventure: in pursue of an Echo, a human travelling alone; and against a self-styled king called Proximus.

Visually, the film is a great rendition of our world lost to the wilderness of nature. From huge buildings overwhelmed with foliage, to the signs of urban infrastructure reduced to rubble poking out of the undergrowth. 2017’s War was already showing a very different world, with humans becoming outlandish, but here humans are a rare sight. The apes we follow are outright scared of encountering a wild human. The roles have very much been reversed.

Our lead human character, is the echo named Nova (played by Freya Allan – The Witcher series) who may be hiding more secrets than first expected. Even in this wild jungle without rules or society, of humans and intelligent apes, we are still confronted by the cynicisms and prejudices of today. Who is the real enemy? Who can be trusted?

Proximus approves of this Cocoa score

The film is a new beginning, as it dives into a new era. Unfortunately, unlike its predecessors that worked off of each other, this film takes time to get going. Content in drowning the audience in this new normal of talking apes, the film bravely continues on with sincerity. It asks us to treat these characters as we would any actor, which considering the quality of visual effects is quite easy to achieve.

But the meat of the story only gets going well into the second act. The introduction of king Proximus arrives very late in the movie, and his character generally suffers for it. An intelligent ape intent on learning from Roman history, who is looking to rule the disparate clans absolutely? This is a compelling villain. Yet, he doesn’t hold a candle to the likes of Koba from Dawn, with the opposition Koba provided Caesar. He probably isn’t even as interesting as Woody Harrelson’s villain in War, and that character’s name escapes right now!

If you are a fan of the franchise and the series, Kingdom is a very welcome addition; the film acquits itself perfectly well and audiences are left with the promise of more. Hopefully these new characters will rise to similar heights of Caesar and Koba.

3 out of 5 stars

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