Thursday, May 9, 2024

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes - Review

In the conversation concerning the best modern movie trilogies, the rebooted Planet of the Apes films is often mentioned. The combination of its rich themes and captivating narrative, not to mention their wild entertainment value, few big franchise films have reached the heights of this franchise in the 21st century. And now it’s back. After a brief hiatus from theaters since 2017’s War for the Planet of the Apes, director Wes Ball returns to post-apocalyptic world of intelligent apes, setting a new foundation for stories to come.

Many years after the reign of Caesar, a young ape (Owen Teague) goes on a journey that will lead him to question everything he's been taught about the past and make choices that will define a future for apes and humans alike.

Much has been said about the technical feats of this franchise over the last thirteen years, and yet, its impressive visual effects never cease to amaze. This is a nearly two and a half hour film that relies almost entirely on CGI characters, and it feels more tangible and real than about 99% of modern blockbusters. In what might be the best visual showcase of what effects artists can do since Avatar: Way of Water, this should absolutely be the entry that finally secures this series a much deserved visual effects Oscar. 

With the franchise jumping ahead a few centuries, the characters introduced face a difficult climb. Caesar, played brilliantly by Andy Serkis, was a complex, emotional character that was a tremendous lead for the trilogy prior. So our new lead, Noa, has some big metaphorical shoes to fill. For the most part, he fits the bill has a solid re-entry for how this world has shifted and developed. He’s really unsure of himself, but his growth throughout the film leaves a ton of avenues to take for his future stories. 

The two biggest standouts otherwise are Kevin Durand as Proximus Caesar and Peter Macon as Raka. Proximus Caesar is a misguided leader, but his fascination with knowledge and the power structure he’s assembled make him an interesting antagonist. The only flaw is there’s not nearly enough time with him on screen. The same could be even said for Raka, though his influence on the main character cannot be understated. As a loyalist to the seemingly profit like status of Caesar, Raka preaches the messages of the previous trilogy that have been lost to time, and twisted by the wrong apes. 

That is essentially our story here: what is mark of a legacy over hundreds of years. When the words of a powerful figure are translated and misappropriated, what problems arise when the words are bent to fit the powerful’s desires. It’s a huge gamble to jump forward and examine this idea, and writer Josh Friedman and director Wes Ball certainly handle it far better than most. It’s not without its flaws, but in the same way 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a great foundation for the future, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes accomplishes just about the same. 

Somehow, this sci-fi franchise, that’s historically been a mixed bag, has turned into one of the more thought-provoking series being made today. It’s treated with a care and attention to detail that few blockbusters are, and it pays off at every turn. Who knows how long this streak will continue, it is a series about talking apes after all, but until it ends, we should all enjoy the journey into this world of primates.

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