Kingdom of The Planet of The Apes | Review by: Tristan French

 When it comes to major franchises, the Planet of the Apes series has proven to be one of the most consistent and reliable. Since the franchise began in 1968, each instalment has served as a highly intelligent exploration of humanity, examining different themes from environmental destruction to our treatment of animals.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes occupies the same universe as Matt Reeves beloved trilogy. Taking place many generations following the death of Caesar, the apes rule the planet and have dispersed into numerous clans. The film is told through the eyes of Noa, a young chimpanzee from a peaceful Eagle-raising clan who prepares to come of age in his clan by collecting eagle eggs a top a mountain, alongside his two closest friends. However, when a mysterious human and a violent tribe of apes show up, it disrupts the peace of the village and Noa is forced to embark on a journey to save his clan.

When Matt Reeves retired from the franchise to work on The Batman, many were skeptical about future instalments. He brought such a depth and unique visual identity to the franchise that can’t be replicated. Wes Ball has taken over the reins, a filmmaker specifically known for helming the Maze Runner franchise. While his subpar track record initially made fans of the series skeptical, Wes Ball has proven himself to be a great fit. The film boasts strong visuals, with brilliant VFX. Wes is able to expertly direct action-sequences that are some of the most thrilling the franchise has ever seen. The film is also emotionally compelling and does a terrific job at drawing parallels to the current state of our world.

The new cast of characters certainly aren’t as immediately compelling as Caesar, whose presence looms over the film with several mentions of his name. Even though the film takes place long after Caesar’s death, witnessing how his legacy affected the world that these apes inhabit, and how each clan interprets his words differently to fit their own narrative is the most fascinating aspect of the film. It plays to the idea of history repeating itself and humanity making similar mistakes with each new generation, as well as how political divided our world is in today’s landscape.

That’s isn’t to say that the new cast of characters aren’t compelling on their own merits. While Noa’s character arc is fairly predictable, he is ultimately a strong protagonist that is easy to root for. His complicated relationship with Mae in particular, his first exposure to the human race, is fascinating to watch play out. Freya Allen delivers a terrific and deeply human performance as Mae, it’s especially impressive considering she’s acting alongside mostly motion capture actors. Where Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes does fall short is with its central antagonist. Proximus is introduced halfway through the movie and is built up to be a terrifying presence, but he is poorly developed, has thin motivations and isn’t given the time to truly make his mark on the film. The commander of his army, Sylva, is a much more intimidating presence and would have worked better as the film’s central antagonist.

While Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes doesn’t quite reach the heights of its predecessors, it’s a visually stunning and thematically compelling continuation of the series that will likely satisfy fans.

Rating: 3.5/5

Review by: Tristan French 

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