Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes Takes Us on a New Journey

Kingdom promises a thrilling experience for new and old fans alike.

Reader Rating0 Votes
Enthralling narrative driven by endearing characters
Minimal context needed despite being the fourth entry in the series
Apes together still strong
Not an especially original overall plot
Somewhat contrived ending to an otherwise epic climax

In 2019, the internet saw calls to “Reject humanity, return to monke”. It’s taken 5 years, but this collective vision has finally been realised in Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes.

And while an outdated meme might seem an odd choice for an opener, this one truly does encapsulate the post-Anthropocene setting of the latest entry in the Planet of the Apes franchise. One which might just be its strongest yet.

Kingdom opens a new chapter of the reboot series, fittingly led by a new director, writer, and an all-new cast. Long gone are the days when our primate protagonists were forced to struggle against humans for their survival and freedom–the age of man is over, and the only real threats to the apes in the film are their fellow ape brethren. But, despite featuring the least number of human characters yet, this movie lacks anything but humanity, returning to its roots with a fully articulate ensemble of apes who are as human as they come.

Taking a page out of their predecessors’ book, the actors in this film maximise every bit of potential of their rudimentary dialogue, reinforcing the unfiltered intensity of Josh Friedman’s script with movement and facial expressions perfectly performed through every emotional beat. It’s nothing short of impressive how the cast (with the help of the CGI artists, of course) manage to portray semi-evolved apes, constantly toeing a fine line between “human-level intellect” and “but not quite human”.

While the central plot of the film isn’t anything groundbreaking (some of it bears quite a bit of similarity to its immediate predecessor), the masterfully written, character-driven script makes up for any lack of originality. And, although the plot progression isn’t too unpredictable, it has enough twists and turns to keep you guessing.

The pacing of the film is also a noticeable improvement over the last, which felt a little draggy at times. Most importantly, viewers can expect to be fully immersed in the movie’s novel setting and Noa’s coming-of-age journey, growing along with him as both he and they gradually shed their ignorance of the world in the film.

Equally deserving of praise is how the movie smoothly integrates its world-building into organic dialogue, with interaction between its characters primarily focused on developing them instead of exposition (looking at you, Black Adam and live-action ATLA). In fact, the entire film provides exposition sparingly, only giving audiences the bare minimum context needed to understand the plot.

While callbacks and references to previous titles are littered throughout the movie, you really don’t need to have seen or heard of any of them to enjoy it as a standalone film. This makes Kingdom a great starting point for new audiences, while longtime fans can appreciate the seamlessly incorporated nods to prequels, which range from subtle to prominent, but are always just icing on the cake.

What sets this entry apart from all the other films, however, is how it reaches the thematic depths of the original 20th Century movies, which the first three films of the reboot series arguably fall short of at times. Most impressively, these themes come through in the story without the often in-your-face manner in which they were included in the original five films, demonstrating Friedman’s mastery over the “Show, don’t tell” technique.

The film is rife with uncomfortable but engaging parallels to human history as it explores a myriad of themes including evolution, hubris, knowledge, and even the perversion of doctrine. And, although there’s a clear delineation between the good and bad guys, it still leaves room for moral ambiguity in its characters’ actions, portraying even seeming righteousness as potentially flawed.

Philosophy aside, Kingdom also has plenty of action sequences for the adrenaline junkies, featuring the best ape-versus-ape fight choreography since 2014’s Dawn. That being said, the film’s only real flaw is the somewhat contrived ending to its climax, which, unfortunately, stands out not just because it could have been much more logically situated with some minor changes, but because it’s preceded by a much more exciting action sequence.

Nonetheless, any of the films’ shortcomings are a drop in the bucket, with never a dull moment between its hair-raising action scenes and heartfelt character interactions. To top it off, the movie sets up the premise for an exciting sequel and, that if anywhere near as good as this one, is sure to live up to the hype.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is out now in theatres. Don’t feel obligated to binge the first eight movies like I did in preparation for this film (though they’re all pretty fun).

Review up by Muhd Muhaimin