“Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” Review

Spoilers

In 2011, Rupert Wyatt’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” which you can stream with Apple TV, breathed new life into a franchise that has been part of our cultural landscape for over fifty years. With Andy Serkis’ groundbreaking portrayal of Caesar through motion capture, the series set a new standard for emotionally resonant storytelling combined with cutting-edge visual effects. The subsequent films, directed by Matt Reeves, continued to explore these themes with depth and nuance. Now, Wes Ball’s “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” seeks to extend this legacy, but does it succeed?

Set 300 years after the events of “War for the Planet of the Apes,” “Kingdom” introduces us to a world where apes have become the dominant species, and humans are reduced to feral scavengers. The story centers on Noa (Owen Teague), a young chimpanzee from the Eagle Clan who embarks on a perilous journey after his village is attacked by the ruthless Proximus Caesar (Kevin Durand). Alongside an unusually intelligent human, Mae (Freya Allan), and the wise orangutan Raka (Peter Macon), Noa seeks to rescue his clan and confront Proximus.

One of the film’s standout features is its breathtaking visual design. The post-apocalyptic world, where nature has reclaimed human structures, is rendered with stunning realism.

Cinematographer Gyula Pados captures this lush, overgrown landscape beautifully, making it one of the most visually engaging films in recent memory. The use of performance capture technology is equally impressive, with the actors’ nuanced performances bringing the ape characters to vivid life.

However, while the film excels visually, it falters in its narrative execution. “Kingdom” is burdened by a slow pace and a bloated runtime of 145 minutes. The story takes a long time to gain traction, often treading familiar ground and struggling to distinguish itself from both its predecessors and other dystopian sci-fi adventures. The film’s middle act feels particularly sluggish, filled with side-quests that detract from the main plot.

The absence of a central figure like Caesar is keenly felt. Noa and Mae, while compelling in their own right, lack the emotional depth and gravitas that Serkis brought to Caesar. This makes it difficult for the film to achieve the same level of emotional impact as the previous trilogy. Kevin Durand’s Proximus, though charismatic and menacing, is not given enough screen time to fully develop into a memorable antagonist.

Despite these shortcomings, “Kingdom” has its moments of brilliance. The action sequences are thrilling and well-choreographed, especially the climactic battle scenes set against the backdrop of a coastal settlement. The film also touches on thought-provoking themes, such as the misuse of religion and the potential for inter-species peace. These elements, however, are not explored as deeply as they could be, often overshadowed by the film’s visual spectacle.

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“Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” is a visually stunning addition to the franchise, but it lacks the narrative strength and emotional resonance of its predecessors. While it successfully continues the story set in motion by the previous trilogy, it ultimately feels like a stepping stone to future installments rather than a complete and satisfying chapter in its own right. For fans of the series, the film offers enough to appreciate and enjoy, but it may not leave a lasting impression.

“Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” is a mixed bag. It stands tall with its impressive visuals and ambitious scope but stumbles with its sluggish pacing and lack of compelling characters. As we look forward to the future of this beloved franchise, one can only hope that the next installment will strike a better balance between spectacle and substance.

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