Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes

The Planet of the Apes franchise has had a rocky road since the 1968 original. There have been endless sequels, reimaginings, and reboots along the way, with some of them being remembered fondly while others are just plain forgettable.

The franchise got a reboot in 2011 with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and it’s been pretty uphill ever since. Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, the latest installment, may not be considered quite as thrilling or sophisticated, but it still proves to be a memorable ride nonetheless.

The story picks up generations after Caesar’s death, with Earth becoming dominated by all those primates. One of them, Noa (Owen Teague), encounters a group of warmongering apes led by the imposing Proximus Caesar (Kevin Durand). Proximus is in search of technology, and he takes Noa’s family hostage.

On a quest to get them back, Noa meets a wise orangutan named Raka (Peter Macon), who teaches him about Caesar. Together the two come face to face with a human scavenger that Raka names Nova (Freya Allen). At first, Nova doesn’t speak, but then she tells the apes that her real name is Mae.

Like the previous films, Kingdom showcases the same brilliant use of performance capture to have actors mirroring their simian counterparts. The result is once again convincing, seamless and indistinguishable.

Director Wes Ball has the enviable task of taking the reigns from Rupert Wyatt, who made the first reboot, and Matt Reeves, who made the sequels. He does a fine job creating a stellar first act with impressive, effective special effects. The third act mostly succeeds despite falling victim to the trappings of too many effects and a false ending.

We’re introduced to Proximus’ fortress, where Noa’s family is held. While we get introduced to more characters, including a human historian (William H. Macy), the rest of the scenes aren’t nearly as interesting. The movie slowly bides its time until we get to the predictable showdown. If the middle had more intriguing elements, the movie would’ve proved to be equal to its predecessors.

However, despite my minor reservations, the movie does lead to an intriguing conclusion that will set up another film.

Even though Andy Serkis’s presence is sorely missed, the new characters are welcome additions with fine performances. Some emotional moments have decent payoffs, and the CGI still makes this latest effort a jump on the cinematic evolutionary ladder.

This is a worthy and mostly entertaining sequel.

Grade: B+

(Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence/action.)

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