• Tue. May 28th, 2024

KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES – Apes Together Still Strong!

ByTaylor T Carlson

May 8, 2024

KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is directed by Wes Ball. It stars Owen Teague, Freya Allan, Kevin Durand, Peter Macon, and William H. Macy. It’s the tenth PLANET OF THE APES film, and the fourth in the rebooted series that started in 2011 with RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES.

Ape leader Caesar has died. Many generations later, apes are scattered and living in many tribes of varied beliefs, with humans scattered as well. When young ape Noa’s village elder father is killed and his home left in shambles, he embarks on a journey to rescue his captured friends, learning much about the wisdom and the true story of Caesar along the way. He soon finds himself face to face with an ape kingdom and a tyrannical leader who’ll do whatever is takes to rule and keep his power. Will Noa be able to rise up against impossible odds, and will humans and apes be able to live in peace and harmony?

In the early 2010s, PLANET OF THE APES was seen as a dated relic of a sci-fi series; there had already been one failed attempt to reboot the franchise. But against all odds, we got a trilogy of fantastic films that actually surpassed the originals in terms of storytelling and production quality. For years now, we’ve waited for a sequel to 2017’s WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (ironically, largely due to the worldwide spread of a manmade virus). Seven years later, KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is here. It definitely feels more like a Hollywood blockbuster than its immediate predecessors which seemed more grounded and cerebral, but despite a few missteps and clumsy moments, it’s a solid effort overall.

The previous three APES film were interesting in that they followed the same group of apes, but with each movie being set far enough in time apart that we had different human supporting casts. KINGDOM is set several generations after its most immediate predecessor to the point that humans and apes are once again largely separated, and Caesar’s life has become the literal stuff of legend. And much like real-world legends and Biblical tales, these teachings have been reinterpreted by different factions in wildly different ways, making for some interesting conflict. While KINGDOM goes in a more blockbuster-style direction than the previous movies, it’s good to see it’s not just mindless action. There’s still plenty of story and depth to be had here.

Surprisingly, the cast features very few A-list actors; the most noteworthy name here is William H. Macy, a fantastic actor who the movie criminally underused to the point that I question whether the film even needed him (was he added at the eleventh hour for the star power that comes with his name?) The best performance in the entire film comes from Peter Macon as an ape scholar of sorts, opening Noa’s eyes to the real, un-bastardized teachings of Caesar. Sadly, he too is underused and written off rather haphazardly. The rest of the cast does well enough, including Kevin Durand as the film’s principal villain, and Owen Teague as Noa, a young hero who must rise to the occasion. Humans are largely represented in the form of Freya Allan, who plays a character that may not be all that she seems at first glance, further adding to conflicts with both friend and foe. Hats off to this talented ensemble for bringing these characters to life, though you’ll wish some of them had more screen time.

From a production standpoint, KINGDOM is absolutely gorgeous. Motion capture is still a relatively new form of visual effect, but the new APES series has perfected it like no other. From the characters themselves to the surroundings that range from abandoned beachside tankers to picturesque forest villages, you don’t want to take your eyes off this one! For the first time since this rebooted series began, the world begins to resemble the one from the original 1968 PLANET OF THE APES, with talk of forbidden zones, scare-humans, talking dolls, and even some brief hints of what may eventually become the bomb-worshipping society of BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES. It seems like all that’s missing is the Statue of Liberty and the astronauts of the past landing on this strange future world (are we ever going to revisit this plot point?), though it’s by no means a remake of any existing APES movie. From start to finish, the visual effects and cinematography crew totally sell it. My screening of KINGDOM was in the IMAX room at AMC Town Square, but I have a feeling it’ll be a sight to behold on any size of screen.

Only a few elements hold back KINGDOM. The first and biggest problem is the underuse of certain characters; Peter Macon’s Raka is the best character this series has introduced in quite some time, but he’s basically cast aside and forgotten despite the initial development, which is a huge disappointment. Likewise, as was previously stated, William H. Macy’s human character feels tertiary and unneeded, which is a shame given he’s the biggest actor in the film and deserved far more than what feels like a glorified cameo. Some plot conveniences later in the film feel a bit rushed, which is at odds with the already too-long running time. It leaves us with more questions than answers, but of course, the filmmakers have to fan the flames for the inevitable sequel. Just don’t make us wait seven years for the next one!

KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES isn’t perfect; for me it doesn’t surpass its most immediately predecessors. But despite some minor shortcomings, it delivers everything you could ever want in your Hollywood entertainment, from terrific action scenes (there was plenty of applause and cheering in my screening) to mind-blowing visuals, it’s bound to be one of 2024’s great blockbusters. Highly recommended!

Also, there are no mid or post-credits scenes. You can leave as soon as they start rolling.

By Taylor T Carlson

Taylor T Carlson Assistant Editor/Senior Staff Writer Taylor T. Carlson was born August 17, 1984, and has called the Vegas Valley home his entire life. A die-hard fan of classic rock and metal music, Taylor has been writing album and concert reviews since he was 16 years old, and continues to do so, having done well over 1,000 reviews. He is also a fan of video gaming and cinema, and has reviewed a number of games and films as well, old and new alike. His thorough and honest (some would say brutally honest) reviewing style has won him the respect of hundreds of music fans and musicians alike, both local and abroad, and the ire of just as many others. Despite being one of the youngest attendees at classic hard rock/metal shows around Vegas, he is also one of the most knowledgeable, having gained the unofficial nickname of “The Eddie Trunk of Las Vegas.” In addition to reviews, Taylor has written and self-published three books on classic hard rock bands, and is a regular participant in rock and roll trivia contests. Taylor also holds a masters degree in special education from the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV), and has appeared on the hit History Channel television series Pawn Stars. His dream is to be able to one day make a living from writing music books and reviews.

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