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MOVIE REVIEW: This isn’t just monkey business: a review of ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’

‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ is an excellent science fiction movie as it uses the conventions of the genre to truly iron out real world issues and problems.

The latest set of films under the ‘Planet of the Apes’ franchise – ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes,’ ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,’ and ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ – was actually a very satisfying, grand epic that had its own pulse, heart, and soul. Lead by the very charismatic Andy Serkis (even in a motion capture performance) as Caesar, the franchise has a solid foundation and history to build upon a larger world that continues from this first trilogy. This is how director Wes Ball, with screenwriter Josh Friedman, manages to skillfully bring the franchise forward, working on the legacy that Caesar has built while introducing new characters and a new facet of this world.

In ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes,’ the story is set “generations later” after the death of Caesar and the world has changed. Humans have gone feral and lost the capacity of speech, and different clans of apes now roam the planet. One clan of apes, the Eagle Clan, live secluded from the rest of the world in a hidden valley. Here, they tend and bond with eagles and live relatively peaceful lives until another ape, Proximus, and his kingdom of apes have come to capture more to expand and strengthen his kingdom.

A scene still from 20th Century Studios’ KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

We follow the story of Noa, a young chimpanzee, and son of the master of the birds. He and his friends are looking for eagle’s nest to take an egg to bond with, so they have an eagle of their own as they mature. It’s a ritual that members of their clan must undertake. The first twenty minutes of the film establishes this new world and the daily lives of the Eagle Clan. It’s wonderful world building, as Ball and Friedman do a fantastic job of making us recognize these characters and finding what makes them relatable. 

(L-R): Noa (played by Owen Teague) and Koro (played by Neil Sandilands) in 20th Century Studios’ KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2024 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.
Noa (played by Owen Teague) in 20th Century Studios’ KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

But everything is torn upside down when Proximus’ people attack and burn everything down and Noa is left for dead, after he witnesses the death of his father during the assault. He must now explore the world outside his valley and discover the truth about the world. He will meet humans and other apes and discover the legacy of Caesar and a surprising discovery about the history of this world.

Noa (played by Owen Teague) in 20th Century Studios’ KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ is an excellent science fiction movie as it uses the conventions of the genre to truly iron out real world issues and problems. Interestingly enough, the world is now populated by different clans and species of apes, the new dominant life form, but the troubles that plague them now are not so dissimilar to the issues we face today. Compound upon this fact is that while humans have gone feral, there are other aspects to them that keep them as an integral part of the equation. This tension is only just beginning.

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(Center): Freya Allan as Nova in 20th Century Studios’ KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2024 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Ball and Friedman do not take a full-on action/adventure route though much of the film’s structure follows the classic hero’s journey. The film is at its best when it ruminates and explores the complexities of society and civilization and the morality of how the apes treat the humans. Noa because a wonderful foil to project our own questions and difficulties. It is one thing to be lawful and to be just, but it is also another thing to be righteous. They do not necessarily mean the same thing and in the ways by which Noa and Proximus collide and engage, these themes come jumping out into the fore.

(L-R): Noa (played by Owen Teague) , Freya Allan as Nova and Raka (played by Peter Macon) in 20th Century Studios’ KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2024 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

The CGI effects and motion capture work is excellent as it really creates the illusion that these apes have taken over the planet. They have all the physicality of their species, but they also share and exhibit human mannerisms and behaviour. The voice acting of the cast – Owen Teague (Noa), Kevin Durand (Proximus), and Peter Macon (Raka, an orangutan, who is aware of the true legacy of Caesar) – really helps sell the story and add the depths needed that keep ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ an engaging film that we can all enjoy and also learn from.

Proximus Caesar (played by Kevin Durand) in 20th Century Studios’ KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.
A scene still from 20th Century Studios’ KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

The film boasts of an epic scope and scale, large themes about civilization and society, great big action pieces, and some wonderful acting through its motion capture and CGI technologies creating a grand science fiction spectacle that is just suited for the cinematic experience. There’s talk that this is the first of a new trilogy in the franchise. If this is the direction they are going, then I’m excited and eager to see what comes next.

My Rating:



Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is now showing. Check screening times and buy tickets here.

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Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes
Action, Adventure, Science Fiction
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