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James Berardinelli review- *** out of ****

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is a sequel/soft reboot of the Planet of the Apes cycle begun in 2011 with Rise of the Planet of the Apes and continued in 2014 and 2017 with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes. Transpiring between 200 and 300 years in the future, the new film views the events of the previous trilogy as part of a mythology that has grown up around the legendary figure of Caesar. Director Wes Ball’s first foray into feature films outside of The Maze Runner trilogy works satisfactorily as a stand-alone movie although it is clearly intended to be the first of a several-film arc. And, although Kingdom attempts to set itself apart as a result of the time jump, it is paradoxically more reliant on a Planet of the Apes series familiarity than some of the other movies. The greater one’s understanding of the earlier films (the ’60s-‘70s iterations and the more recent trilogy), the greater one’s appreciation of what Kingdom has to offer.

This is not a high octane foray into action-adventure territory. Ball expends a fair amount of screen time on world-building – something that will pay dividends if the series continues but may seem indulgent if this is the final entry. The movie’s first human character doesn’t appear until 45 minutes into the proceedings. Until then, Ball explores how different ape tribes have developed in the post-Caesar era. Several action scenes early in the film feel forced and artificial, almost as if Ball, aware of audience expectations, feels duty-bound to deliver, even when the screenplay doesn’t necessarily support a lot of action.

At one point during the ‘70s Planet of the Apes craze, there was a TV show. (It aired for 14 episodes during the fall of 1974.) It could be argued that this new epoch of Planet of the Apes begun with Kingdom might be better served by returning to television (this time as a streaming series), although production costs might be prohibitive. As is evinced in this movie, the narrative is forced to do almost too much heavy lifting, interjecting exposition in ways that are sometimes counterproductive. The pacing is erratic, with some sequences moving too fast.

Kingdom opens with an introduction to three young members of the Eagle clan – Noa (Owen Teague), Soona (Lydia Peckham), and Anaya (Travis Jeffery) – who are preparing for the annual bonding ceremony. Before the event can take place, however, the village is invaded by an army belonging to Proximus Caesar (Kevin Durand), a warlord who seeks to unify the disparate ape clans (by force) into a single kingdom with himself as ruler. Noa escapes capture and decides to locate the survivors of his tribe and, if possible, affect a rescue. He is joined on this journey by two unlikely companions: Raka (Peter Macon), a orangutan who follows the true principals of Caesar, and Mae (Freya Allan), a young, speaking human woman who is smarter and more resourceful than most of her kind.

There’s a lot of nuance in Kingdom. None of the characters are good or evil – all are products of their circumstances. Proximus is driven by ego but his charisma and intellect make him a formidable adversary. Mae, despite initially seeming weak and vulnerable, shows qualities to emphasize that the original rulers of the planet might not be as dead and powerless as seems to be the case. William H. Macy’s Trevanthan, the film’s second human, is a conflicted and intriguing study into what humanity has become by the time of Kingdom.

As has been the case since 2011, the creature-work special effects are top-notch. They are as realistic as they were when director Rupert Wyatt and motion capture actor extraordinaire Andy Serkis first embarked upon this new reimagination of Planet of the Apes. The film also does an excellent job of presenting the apocalyptic setting of a future landscape where recognizable monuments have decayed and become overgrown by vegetation. As we travel with the apes through this wreckage of a human-designed world that is being reclaimed by nature, there’s a sense of awe at how real everything seems.

Kingdom has many of the same qualities as a superhero origin story. It focuses on establishing characters and their relationships and defining the setting. The narrative’s purpose is twofold: provide a trajectory for this movie and set up future installments. Although the main plot threads conclude by the end of Kingdom (this isn’t one of those films that frustrates with a “wait until next time…” demand), there are enough dangling threads that one could easily imagine where a future production might take the surviving characters.


Planet of the Apes fans will almost certainly be pleased by this outing. The open question is whether casual movie-goers will be intrigued by this exploration of a post-apocalyptic world in which human characters are footnotes. Messages about inclusion and racism are easily identified but are no more overt than in the previous installments. The battles and a climactic action sequence are well filmed but Kingdom isn’t trying to outdo the other summer films when it comes to edge-of-the-seat viewing. In a strange way, I find that refreshing.


If I could leave my video review here. I'd give the movie 2.5 out of 4

If anyone's interested, I reviewed the movie on my youtube channel. Appreciate any feedback. Trying to improve -