Directed by: Wes Ball

Written by: Josh Friedman, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver

Starring: Owen Teague, Freya Allan, Kevin Durand, Peter Macon, Travis Jeffrey, Lydia Peckham, William H. Macy, Frances Berry, Dichen Lachman, Eka Darville, Neil Sandilands, Ras-Samuel, Sara Wiseman, Kaden Hartcher, Andy McPhee, Karin Konoval

Synopsis (IMDb): Many years after the reign of Caesar, a young ape goes on a journey that will lead him to question everything he’s been taught about the past and make choices that will define a future for apes and humans alike.

Julian’s review:

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is finally here. It was a refreshing return to the reboot saga that somehow managed to avoid force-feeding fan service like the Jurassic Park franchise or more recently like Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire and remain an entertaining film. It is amazing how this series of films starting with Rise of the Planet of the Apes continues to be a great franchise in its own right apart from the original series that began with the ’68 original Planet of the Apes. Even though it was 2-hour and 25-minutes long, I’ve certainly enjoyed my time with it and was well worth the trip.

Image via 20th Century Studios/Disney

Many generations later since the death of the ape leader/messiah Caesar (as seen at the end of War for the Planet of the Apes). Apes have flourished and divided into different clans while humanity had devolved into feral mute animals thanks to the Simian Flu virus (Introduced at the end of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and expanded upon later in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and War for the Planet of the Apes). Noa (Owen Teague), a member of the Eagle Clan, finds his community assaulted by fascist apes who are being led by “Proximus Caesar” (Kevin Durand). Proximus is looking to unite all ape clans by force under his twisted misrepresentation of what the original Caesar (Andy Serkis) stood for. Proximus’ version of Caesar’s teachings reflect his fear of humans regaining their intelligence and wanting their planet back with a vengeance. All the while, Noa encounters an educated orangutan guardian named Raka (Peter Macon), who knows the real legend of Caesar. Noa also crosses paths with Mae (Freya Allan) who’s not as feral as the rest of the humans. Because of this and what she knows, she’s also caught the eye of Proximus.

Image via 20th Century Studios/Disney

The movie looks beautiful from beginning to end. Seeing how much nature has taken over what’s left of the ruins of human civilization shows that this Earth belongs to the apes now. And the ape protagonists are great to watch. Teague’s Noa gives a solid performance as the novice Eagle clan member-turned-leader. We get to know him throughout the course of the film before we start to root for him when clashes with Proximus. I also liked Macon’s Raka, who seems to be the new Maurice archetype in this new trilogy, because he carries a lot of wisdom, and is funny in certain parts. Even though Noa was a great character to follow, the standout would be Durand’s Proximus. He carries charismatic behavior in a manipulative and twisted way in doing what he feels is right for his cause. 

Image via 20th Century Studios/Disney

Allan’s Nova/Mae was a great performance too. She reminded me of Daisy Ridley’s Star Wars character Rey in how she felt empathy toward her kind turned into feral animals and was resourceful in her actions. But when things take a turn in the story, she becomes the anti-Rey embodying what apes distrust humanity. William H Macy was okay; his character could have been cut out and not much would have changed, however, he serves as a reminder of other intelligent humans still existing. 

Image via 20th Century Studios/Disney

The story was a solid re-introduction to the saga as it is set many generations later. It was a bit repetitive and similar to the previous movie’s plot except for the revenge arc Caesar had to deal with. But it takes time to get the audience acquainted with the new characters in this new world that are very different from the world Caesar and his apes existed in. Apes learn falconry all the while not knowing the legacy of their ape messiah. Meanwhile, Proximus and his apes taint Caesar’s legacy of empathy, firmness, and kindness (due to being raised by humans in Rise) by destroying nearby ape clans and forcing them under his banner. 

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Image via 20th Century Studios/Disney

This movie’s theme revolves around the threat of historical revision which is also a great danger to all facets of human history in real life. In Dawn, Koba (Toby Kebbell) tried to start a coup and outright enslave humanity out of fear and hatred. Proximus operates in a similar fashion where he distorts Caesar’s legacy from what was once a symbol of hope, strength, and unity for all apes turning into a cry for power and maintaining dominance by any means necessary.

Image via 20th Century Studios/Disney

While Noa does learn from Raka about the real Caesar’s legacy, he does learn about Caesar’s time with humankind later while helping Mae to retrieve a valuable item. He and his ape friends find a children’s book, a glimpse of Man’s dominion of Earth with one detailing a human kid observing a caged ape. The image perfectly illustrates that apes were at one point inferior and viewed as dumb animals by humans. This opens Noa’s worldview of humans and Caesar’s legacy in different ways he slowly becomes unsure of Mae, given her biases toward her kind and her hope of humanity regaining the planet.

Image via 20th Century Studios/Disney

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is a enjoyable bite-size appetizer that is a great watch with or without the added baggage of the first reboot trilogy. It expands on the lore without shoving it directly into the audience’s face as with other franchises. It also shows how the franchise continues to be a thoughtful and powerful look at humanity through the lens of apes and the dangers of all the bad habits that may lead us to complete and utter destruction if we do not get our act together. 

Image via The Movie Database/20th Century Studios/Disney

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