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‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ (review)

Set 300 years on from the conclusion of Caesar’s saga, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is a soft reboot of sorts of Matt Reeves’ successful Apes trilogy that starred motion capture performance legend Andy Serkis as main monkey Caesar.

In the new installment, Owen Teague takes over the main character mantle with Noa, a young ape belonging to a thriving clan of apes skilled in the art of eagle wrangling.

Unfortunately, this idyllic clan is soon disrupted by less peaceful apes, and Noa must set out to find out what has become of his family and friends, sending him on a journey through unknown territory where he comes across many unexpected things, both in terms of the remnants of humanity and the different types of apes roaming the world, as well as a lone human who appears to be different from the rest of her devolved species.

After Reeves’ Apes trilogy ended with a memorable crescendo with 2017’s War for the Planet of the Apes, the story of Caesar‘s quest to unite the apes had reached a satisfying end, but thanks to the success of the reboot trilogy, 20th Century Fox – which has since, of course, become property of Disney – announced that more films would be made, and here we are seven years later.

Naturally, the first question one asks of this latest installment in an otherwise completed narrative is whether it has earned its right to exist, and thankfully, it largely has.

While Reeves’ trilogy was overall stronger than what Ball has achieved with Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, the new film is nonetheless still a solid adventure blockbuster that overwhelmingly succeeds at being engaging.

Similarly, Teague also has big shoes to fill after Serkis’ central performance as Caesar, and Teague manages to impress as the new main ape, with the rest of the performances ranging from serviceable to engrossing.

Darker and more finessed than most cinematic franchise fare, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes manages to stand out from most other contemporary franchises by committing fully to its concept without feeling the need to resort to tedious applications of bathos.

The CGI is of course also of sincere importance in a contemporary Apes film, and Weta once again dazzles with their abilities, making the new film as visually impressive as its predecessors, and this once again ensures that the suspension of disbelief works superbly and makes the film that much more immersive.

Where the film struggles is in the pacing department, as the runtime of 2 hours and 25 minutes is unnecessarily long, especially when the world building of the post-human world had already been cemented by the Reeves films, just as the drama of Ball’s installment is not elevated by the bloated runtime either.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes may not be a franchise installment anyone asked for, but it still manages to be a largely engaging film with spectacular visual effects, solidifying that the Apes franchise has a distinct identity of its own, even if the necessity of additional films is questionable.

Verdict: 7 out of 10.

 *  *  *  *  *
Produced by Wes Ball, Joe Hartwick Jr.,
Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Jason T. Reed

Written by Josh Friedman
Based on Characters by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver
Premise from Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle
Directed by Wes Ball
Starring Owen Teague, Freya Allan,
Kevin Durand, Peter Macon, William H. Macy

 

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