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Movie Review: “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes”

By Bob Garver

Movie Review: “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes”

In this era of constant reboots and re-imaginings and the like, “Planet of the Apes” has had a pretty successful run. 2011’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” was such a big hit both commercially and critically that pundits were talking about an unprecedented motion-capture-based Oscar nomination for Andy Serkis as lead ape Caesar (it didn’t happen, but it was fun to speculate). Two follow-up films in 2014 and 2017 weren’t shabby either, and it looked like the series was going to stop at a taut little trilogy. But now we’re back with “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes,” which takes place in the same continuity as Caesar without overextending the neatly-wrapped arc.

Set 300 years after Caesar’s passing, apes have taken over the world landscape, while humanity is all but wiped out. The apes have formed tribes and communities, and even taken to domesticating animals like horses. Our new hero Noa (Owen Teague) is part of a tribe that trains eagles, even bonding with them like family members. He and his friends Soona (Lydia Peckham) and Anaya (Travis Jeffrey) make risky climbs to pick out the best eggs for a ceremony to impress leaders Dar (Sara Wiseman) and Koro (Neil Sandilands), Noa’s mother and father, respectively. Noa has a rare encounter with a human, followed by an even worse encounter with a malevolent ape army that ransacks his village and takes surviving tribe members hostage.

Left for dead, Noa soon sets out on a mission to rescue what little remains of his home and family. He meets wizened old ape Raka (Peter Macon), who becomes his mentor. He also re-encounters human Mae (Freya Allan) and the two form an unlikely bond, even though the two species have been feuding for generations. They’re eventually captured by head pillager Sylva (Eka Darville) and taken to the titular Kingdom. The good news is that Noa is reunited with the rest of his tribe, the bad news is that they’re all enslaved by mad king Proximus Caesar (Kevin Durand).

Surprisingly, Proximus doesn’t hate humans as much as the other apes in these movies. He likes their culture and even keeps one (William H. Macy) as a sort of pet. Unfortunately, his love of humans has led to him picking up some of their worst tendencies, like greed and manipulation and a thirst for power. He’s convinced that if he can get into a locked human vault, he can use the human “knowledge” (mostly weapons) inside to take over the world. Noa and Mae agree that they can’t let that happen, but they have different, and perhaps conflicting motivations.

To be honest, until it reaches the Kingdom, this movie drags. The destruction of the peaceful village is just so expected from this kind of movie, as is the journey filled with unlikely friendships. Fortunately things pick up toward the end, with the psychology of shifting loyalties and some memorable action. Let’s just say that this movie adds another chapter to this franchise’s complex history with gun violence.

The exciting conclusion is admittedly quite successful in making the audience (including myself, since I’m recommending it) forget what a slog the movie was beforehand. “Kingdom” is going to do well enough that we’ll probably see another “Planet of the Apes” in the near future, and sure, I’m interested enough to stay with this continuity for a while. No character in this movie is as memorable as Serkis’ Caesar, of course, but I’d like to see how some relationships and journeys develop. It won’t happen for this movie, but who knows, maybe a future installment can finally score one of the apes that elusive Oscar nomination.


Grade: B-


“Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence/action. Its running time is 145 minutes.


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