Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (2024)
Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (2024)

Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 2 hrs. 25 min.

Release Date: May 10th, 2024 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Wes Ball Actors: Freya Allan, Owen Teague, Lydia Peckham, Travis Jeffery, Kevin Durand, Peter Macon, William H. Macy

 


 

A

man-made virus gave rise to intelligent apes, which also robbed humans of their own cognitive abilities, including speech. It’s the ultimate irony that mankind would invent the cause for a reversal in nature’s stature; humans are now the mere animals, something to be studied and observed in a zoo exhibit. And Caesar, the first of the hyper-intelligent monkeys, who would sacrifice himself for the wellbeing of his species, is revered as a legendary savior.

Several generations later, the world is something of a zombie apocalypse; pockets of civilization exist, but only in terms of ape populations who reside peacefully in primitive forest dwellings, oftentimes scouring humanity’s ruins – consumed by vegetation and wildlife. The various simian tribes, such as the Eagle Clan, speak fluent English (though it’s seamlessly merged with sign language, grunts, and other utterances), ride horses, and train birds of prey, continuing to evolve by learning more and more efficient ways to build their communities and coexist with Mother Nature. Noa (Owen Teague), Soona (Lydia Peckham), and Anaya (Travis Jeffery) are three young members, inseparable friends who gather eggs from aeries constructed at precariously towering heights for an upcoming bonding ceremony. But their playful rivalry and carefree hijinks are about to come to an end when they run across a scavenging human survivor (Freya Allan) with links to a dangerous parish of apes living in the forbidden realm of the Valley Beyond.

The computer-animated creatures – now the uncontested stars – are still unbelievably fantastic. Their expressions, facial movements, hair, and skin textures are entirely photorealistic; particularly in close-ups, these unusual leads are mesmerizing. Unfortunately, since they’re now also action heroes, there’s something left to be desired from more complex maneuvers; after all, it’s difficult to motion-capture a chimpanzee engaging in daredevil stunts with that same realism. Nevertheless, the general look of it all is stunning – from the landscapes to the crumbling buildings to the costuming (and masks) to the weaponry (a touch like “Avatar,” but smarter). The world-building, which borrows notes from “The Time Machine,” “A Quiet Place,” “The Walking Dead,” “Apocalypto,” “Waterworld,” and more (including “The Maze Runner” series, which director Wes Ball also helmed), is impressive, even if intermittently derivative (or, on occasion, blatantly so).

Yet the full-circle concept at the heart of the story is quite the clever extrapolation of where previous entries in this long-running series left off. Now the narrative is entirely from the perspective of the apes; it’s their tale to tell, and they’re both the protagonists and antagonists. Just as with humans, the discovery of superior technologies dictates ascendance, particularly through oppression (destruction, violence, and cruelty are on the menu for persuasive leaders to rise up), leading to a caste system, a hierarchy, and a lust for power. The nods to the declines of human civilizations through warping history, exploiting knowledge, and employing religion as a means of manipulation (here, with Christlike notes) are both obvious and fascinating, dually commenting on the progression of education, cooperation, intellectual breakthroughs, and keeping secrets for both protection and control. How traditions and beliefs are formed – and then misused for supremacy or subjugation – are straightforward yet effective, revealing the significance of morality and compassion amid the chaos and lawlessness of a society striving for sophistication. “For Caesar!”

Additionally, wrapped up into this futuristic thriller is a premise of rescue and revenge and an epic journey across hostile lands. As it works to weave its way back to the monumental images and themes from the 1968 film that started it all (based on the novel by Pierre Boulle, who also wrote the source material for “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” to which this new film tips its hat in more than one scene), it brilliantly serves as both a reboot and a sequel (and, unexpectedly, a standalone property that doesn’t require familiarity with the prior pictures). It’s exceptionally well-designed, consistently engaging, and quite the adventure – a wonderful feat for a project whose top three billings are for apes (certainly a first of its kind!).

– Mike Massie

  • 8/10