Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes Review

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Few franchises have defied expectations in the past decade or so like Planet of the Apes. Even with this recent hot streak, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is a sequel that shouldn’t work as well as it does. War for the Planet of the Apes seemingly left this continuity on a perfect final note. Caesar is gone along with Andy Serkis, not to mention director Matt Reeves. Yet, the franchise continues to evolve under the leadership of director Wes Ball, who’s no stranger to dystopian settings. Where his Maze Runner trilogy struggled in the character department, Ball has near-Shakespearean figures to work with here. Comparing apes to Shakespeare might sound silly, but as this series has proven even going back to the 1968 classic, there are layers underneath all that hair.

Set several generations after Caesar, the apes are more articulate than ever, but it’s the visual storytelling where this film shines the most. Ball immerses us in a haunting yet oddly tranquil future where nature has engulfed the cities humanity once dominated. While apes have claimed the planet, that doesn’t mean they live together in harmony. When a rival clan raids and imprisons his village, young chimpanzee Noa (Owen Teague) sets out to liberate them. Along the way, Noa encounters an orangutan named Raka (Peter Macon), who seeks to preserve the memory of Caesar. As is the case with most religious figures, Caesar might’ve sought peace, but his words have been twisted into ammunition for violence.

Kevin Durand plays a self-proclaimed ape king who seeks to achieve what not even Caesar could, immortality. While more menacing than the Skar King from Godzilla x Kong, the villain here lacks the nuances of Koba from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The film’s most compelling conflict is between is between Noa and a human named Mae (Freya Allan). Echoing Charlton Heston in the original film, Mae is not only smarter than the average human, but she can talk. Slowly gaining Noa’s trust, it appears Mae may provide a bridge between human and ape. As Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes unfolds, though, their dynamic matures into something more multifaceted.

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While the ape king is the most imperative threat, another looms in the distance. Noa and Mae might be allies now, but it wasn’t long ago that apes and humans were at war. Before that, humans caged and experimented on apes. Not even hundreds of years can erase this history, especially when people are inclined to fall back on destructive habits. Apes have inherited the earth, but Mae’s presence suggests that humans are bound for a comeback. When that time inevitably comes, will they share the planet or blow it all up?

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes plants a lot of seeds with the potential to flourish in future sequels. As a standalone film, Kingdom doesn’t reach the heights of Dawn or War. The intriguing religious allegory regarding Caesar gets overshadowed by action in the second half. One of the most endearing characters also exits the film too early, although hopefully they’ll be brought back by popular demand. On a technical level, though, the apes have never been more expressive with every face telling a story. Once again, this franchise has brains to back up the tech with thought-provoking themes, timely real-world parallels, and more humanity than most human-centric blockbusters. You wouldn’t expect this franchise to maintain such quality, but those maniacs have done it again!

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About Nick Spake

Nick Spake has been working as an entertainment writer for the past ten years, but he's been a lover of film ever since seeing the opening sequence of The Lion King. Movies are more than just escapism to Nick, they're a crucial part of our society that shape who we are. He now serves as the Features Editor at Flickreel and author of its regular column, 'Nick Flicks'.

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