‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ Review: Shaky Foundation for New Beginnings

Written by Matt Rodriguez

After an awful remake in 2001, the Planet of the Apes franchise found proper footing with its reboot trilogy of films beginning with 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The heart and soul of the films was the ape Caesar, brought to life by the amazing performance capture work of the talented Andy Serkis. It’s been seven years since the last Apes movie, and the biggest question has been how the franchise can continue to evolve without its lead ape. Even though Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is a sequel to War for the Planet of the Apes, it’s also marks a new beginning for the franchise. Many generations have passed since the time of Caesar but the battle for supremacy over the land between humans and apes still rages on. His absence is greatly felt in the film, and it’s not a hole that can easily be filled with anyone else, least of which within a single film. While Kingdom struggles to live up to the same quality as its recent predecessors, it does a solid job at carving its own new path in the landscape.

Generations have passed since the death of Caesar and apes have continued to evolve and take over the planet while human society crumbles and falls into legend. Noa (Owen Teague) is a young chimpanzee and member of an eagle clan who train the birds to help with hunting. During preparation for his bonding ceremony in which Noa is given an eagle to raise and train, he and his friends encounter a human girl who follows them back to their clan. Shortly after, their home is raided by another more aggressive faction of apes who are in search of the same girl, leaving Noa’s entire clan either dead or taken capture. As Noa travels to rescue those who remain of his clan, he learns that the world left behind generations ago still holds many secrets and that not all humans are as dumb as most apes think they are.

It’s difficult to pin down what exactly “many generations later” means in the context of the film’s timeline because there are scenes where characters reference Caesar’s time like it was yesterday. Are we talking about ape or human generations? Because those can be two vastly different lifespans.  The most interesting aspect of the film is Caesar himself despite him not actually being in it. In the many generations since Caesar’s death, his story among the apes has risen to the level of myth and legend. He is seen as a Jesus-like figure who helped lead the apes to where they are now. Proximus (Kevin Durand) is the leader of the apes who destroyed Noa’s clan, and he claims they are all followers of Caesar’s teachings, killing and putting fellow apes to work in search of old technology that will bring them closer to enlightenment. Noa runs into an orangutang named Raka (Peter Macon) who also follows Caesar’s teachings, but is more aligned with what his true intentions were. Even then he doesn’t know everything about Caesar and can only guess some things as the knowledge has been passed down mostly through stories. This twisted view of history runs parallel to how humans view events as well. The further we get from something, the easier it is for that thing to be misinterpreted or altered from the original intention. Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes only scratches the surface of these viewpoints, when it should have been the main focus.

The majority of Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes focuses on Noa trying to free his clan from the clutches of Proximus, who is trying to open an ancient human bunker that he believes holds the secrets to the next stage of evolution for apes. There’s honestly nothing particularly interesting about the conflict between Noa and Proximus. There are plenty of callbacks to the previous Apes films; the young human played by Freya Allan is called Nova by the apes for instance, but you would expect more of a bigger change in the generations that have passed. It’s not particularly bad, either, it’s just that it’s nothing we haven’t see the franchise do before so it feels like retreaded ground.

That being said, the visual effects are absolutely gorgeous, and the performance capture work has never looked better. Noa and his fellow apes are brought to life in stunning detail, capturing all the emotion in even the slightest of movements. Seeing Noa break down over the death of his clan is devastating, and just as emotional as seeing him eventually reunite with his friends. The society the apes have built feels just as real as any human civilization. The last Apes trilogy of films always looked great, and with Kingdom the visuals only get better.

Overall, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is an enjoyable addition to the franchise. While it may lack the nuances of the previous trilogy with a more straightforward story, it still delivers plenty of action, emotion, and visual fireworks that will leave you wanting more. The foundation of this new beginning for the franchise may be a little shaky, but there’s no reason why it can’t recover. After all, apes together strong.

  • Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes


While Kingdom struggles to live up to the same quality as its recent predecessors, it does a solid job at carving its own new path in the landscape.

About the author

Matt Rodriguez

Owner and Chief Editor of Shakefire.