Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes review

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Movie: Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes

Production Companies: 20th Century Studios

Director: Wes Ball

Producers: Wes Ball, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Joe Hartwick Jr., Jason Reed

Scriptwriters: Josh Freidman

Main Cast: Owen Teague, Freya Allan, Kevin Durand, William H. Macy, Peter Macon#

Release Date: 9th May 2024

Running Time: 145 minutes

Certificate: 12A

Introduction: Despite not having the emotional heft and gravitas of its predecessors, the new instalment in the ongoing ‘Apes’ saga still manages to hold its own; but is franchise fatigue starting to creep in?

Synopsis: Three hundred years after Caesar’s reign, we follow a young ape named ‘Noa’ (Owen Teague) who must venture out and rescue his clan after they are taken hostage by Kevin Durand’s ‘Proximus Caesar’.

Analysis: I truly believe that the Andy Serkis trilogy is one of the best ever made; blockbuster, mainstream films that have genuine character development and feature well told, gripping and emotional stories, with the added bonus of some of the best motion capture work of all time (I am also aware that this does also heavily apply to ‘Lord of the Rings’ too). Upon re-watching them in order to prepare for this, I absolutely stand by that notion more than ever before. Whenever a brand new imagining or continuation of something that is best left behind comes along, it is usually met with sneers and eye rolls. As much as I was impressed with ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’, I have to say, I think we are getting to the point when we are beginning to go round in circles and not much more can be done. I had hopes for this but it proved to be more limited than I thought it would be.

But hey, money talks (the last three films combined made over one billion dollars). Counting all the original films and the prequel trilogy, this marks the tenth film, and I am just not sure if we need more. I went into this with very high expectations having come straight off the bat with ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ (which I do consider to be a masterpiece of mainstream cinema) and having been knocked out by the last set of films; but perhaps they were too high. I think Kingdom is good but not as great as it could have been. I was left scratching my head slightly as to how the chronology of the film works and where exactly this stands among the chronology, and where it could possibly go. This was especially in regard to what part humans play in all of this and where they fit, to say much more would be giving things away. I understood most of it for the majority, but it was not as clear and coherent as it should be.

For me, in the end, the film was tying itself in a knot. Director Wes Ball (the person behind the ‘Maze Runner’ films) does a good enough job taking the baton from Matt Reeves and returns the franchise to it’s more primitive and grassroots feeling. This does feel like its from the director of those films with more of an apocalyptic and dystopian look and feel (some of the imagery looks as if it is directly out of the ‘Scorch Trials’- except for the greenery). Unfortunately, this simply does not have the emotional gut punch the last ones had. The human characters were just as developed as the apes were and there was a proper, authentic sense of darkness and loss that was excellently handled (rarely have I seen a Hollywood film as powerfully melancholic as ‘War’ was – it was perfect). Those films really did stand high above other blockbusters and are the kind that I love watching and wish we got more of. The same cannot be said here sadly. Even though this proved to be not as strongly written as those that came before it, it does contain perhaps the best motion capture work I have ever seen.

Just when I thought it could not get any more impressive (and terrifyingly realistic), they blow you away once again and perfectly demonstrate their frightening capabilities. The company responsible is Peter Jackson’s Weta FX who are behind the greatest visual effects in cinematic history with of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ films and ‘Avatar’, just to name a couple (who knows what the next installments of ‘Avatar’ will look like). The close ups you get throughout are just as astonishing as they were last time, if not more so and I will continue to be utterly starstruck and knocked out by them. But stunning imagery and CGI does not always (as much as I would want it to) guarantee stellar storytelling which is lacking here.

The ape performances are incredible once again but no one on screen is able to match what Andy Serkis did and I am truly angered by the fact he was not Oscar nominated for ‘Caesar’ or ‘Gollum’; he is the one who revolutionized motion capture within cinema and I will never forgive them for this. Owen Teague and Kevin Durand are the standout performances here. I was blown away by the remarkable technical achievements you see on screen, but it is pointless when you don’t really know where this is all going or how long it can go on for.

In cinemas now.

Overall Rating: 7.5 / 10 – Good

Target Audience: 12+

Content Warning: moderate violence, threat, injury detail

Recommendation: Yes