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Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (2024)

The film actually gets more engaging as it rolls on, sneakily filling its own seeming-plotholes with a deep mythology that promises to expand in further films.
Our Rating

Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Sci-fi

Director: Wes Ball

Actors: Owen Teague, Freya Allan, Kevin Durand, Peter Macon, William H. Macy

Year: 2024

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Country: USA

I have to admit, this movie had to slowly win me over (and it had plenty of time to do that with its 2-1/2 hour runtime). In the three previous Planet of the Apes “reboot” films, the arc was completed for Caesar, the first sentient chimp and leader of the Apes, after a deadly virus caused humans to “devolve” rendering them with limited intellectual capability and speech. Jump ahead “many generations,” and Caesar has become both a mythic (and for some forgotten) figure, and Apes, with their new intelligence, are now settled in established clans with sophisticated cultures.

A trio of adolescent chimps, led by Noa, are part of the Eagle Clan—a society of Apes that lives peacefully in elaborate towers in the forest. Noa and his pals romp carefree among the trees, stealing eggs from eagles’ nests in order to raise and train the birds. We know, of course, that this will be their last moment of innocence (punctuated by an un-asked-for chimp fart): Their idyllic life will be violently interrupted by a pack of simian marauders, who destroy and empty the village in the name of one Proximus Caesar (Kevin Durand), an Ape who has twisted the message of the original Caesar in an ambitious power-grab. Noa, left for dead, regains consciousness to find himself alone. It is up to Noa to follow the tracks of the invaders and rescue the survivors, even if the quest takes him through the forbidden old train tunnel to a mysterious and dangerous realm.

As Noa’s journey goes deeper into unknown territories, he encounters and teams up with an elder orangutan named Raka (Peter Macon). Raka is simply a delightful character. Intellectual, charming, and philosophical (a reverent follower of the true teachings of Jesus… I mean Caesar), he may as well be wearing tiny wireframed professor-glasses on his broad, flat face. Even better, since he’s an orangutan he’s visually wonderful with his huge swinging arms compared to the small and more nimble chimps and Proximus Caesar’s brute, terrifying gorilla soldiers. Raka is easily the best character in the film. But Noa and Raka end up being saddled with a filthy young human woman (Freya Allan) scuttling behind them on their journey… a woman with strangely fashionable torn skinny jeans and a snug-fitting tank top. The story of mute woman, whom Raka names Nova (“because they’re all called Nova”), slowly becomes revealed as their journey takes them closer to Proximus Caesar’s new kingdom of apes.

It may sound like I’m telling the plot of the whole movie here, but seriously, this is just up to the halfway mark at the most. The film actually gets more interesting as it goes on. Eye-rolling moments that I saw as gaping plot holes surprisingly actually start to click into place as the film ambitiously tries to pull a whole lot of world-building into a single movie. My initial skepticism of the plot (yet another young man/Ape finds his destiny to become a leader) slowly started to thaw as more context and previously-unexplained backstory was filled in. Let’s just say, very rarely do I wish that these massive big budget movies would be longer, but the setup and happenings in this film could have been easily been two or three movies. The movie actually begs a rewatch before the next (inevitable) chapter to sort out the information presented so far, as there is a LOT going on here.

The reboot of the Planet of the Apes has set a surprisingly high bar in the land of cinematic remakes. Except for the occasional aforementioned chimp fart, the series takes itself and its premise seriously—something I appreciate, especially when its done well. It certainly helps that over the last decade or two CGI and other special effects have matured to an astonishing level. Combine that with talented voice actors, the simian characters and the post-human world they inhabit is wholly believable and immersive. Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes continues this trend of quality—there are enough intriguing reveals in this chapter that I have to admit I am curious where this big, messy, ambitious world will go.

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