Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes movie poster

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes

In theaters May 10, 2024

Rated

,

145 minutes

Directed by:

Starring: , , ,

Admittedly, I’ve never seen any of the Planet of the Apes movies. Not any of the entries of the original (launched in 1968) franchise, nor any of the reboots or remakes. My deepest connection is watching the Troy McClure adaptation Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Want to Get Off! (The Simpsons, “A Fish Called Selma”, Episode 147, 1996, Fox). That may be why I’m better than most reviewing Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (2024), despite the fact that I had no idea what was going on most of the time.

Everyone is an Ape who can talk and sing except for two people we’ll meet later, Mae (Freya Allan) and Trevathan (William H Macy). I wanted to get that out of the way.

On the eve of an important bonding ceremony, Noa (Owen Teague) is separated from his clan after an attack by mask-wearing silverback gorillas. The gorillas, and every ape they capture, are forced to pledge allegiance to a large bonobo, Proximus Caesar (Kevin Durand), who is searching for any and all human technology. He doesn’t know what he’ll do with it, he just wants it. Forced to leave his decimated home to find his family, Noa meets Raka (Peter Macon), an older orangutan who once belonged to a group of elders who studied the words of the original Cesar (seen only in somber flashbacks). Raka knows that Proximus Cesar has corrupted Caesar’s original teachings but is unsure how to turn the tide of opportunistic greed. Raka and Noa meet with Mae, a human who’s been following Noa on a quest of her own. Noa is warned to not trust her, as humans are duplicitous with their own hidden agenda, but as they seem to have the same destination in mind, he initially has no choice. Having been sheltered within his own Eagle Clan, one that trains large birds of prey, Noa only knows the law as handed down by his own elders and finds literally everything else in conflict. He only has his heart to follow and his promise to his father to keep, but the world as he knows it is changing faster than he can keep up.

I’m pretty sure that’s the movie I watched. Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is a sprawling epic of 145 minutes and it still managed to flow faster than the film I screened before it. Unlike most movies rendered in CGI, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes felt wholly live-action, without the jarring slips and stutters seen in recent films. The acting of Owen Teague, Peter Macon, and Kevin Durand doesn’t sound like ADR voices looped over animation and the motion-captured acting is sharp and kinetic. This is a deeply dramatic story of the reclamation of family and culture, without a clear protagonist to root for.

I obviously can’t speak for anyone who’s seen its predecessors, but as someone who learned everything about the backstory from the characters on screen, it was engaging and thrilling. I was only along for the ride, but the ride slowed appropriately for exposition and the chases and fights didn’t feel over-choreographed. It’s rare to have a film with this length and so much history not pause for several minutes to explain mundane so the dullards can catch up, but director Wes Ball, doesn’t waste a moment telling you something you can look up later. Everything you need is gleaned via context, and it’s the mark of a man who trusts his audience. I can respect that.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes deserves to be seen on a big screen with expansive sound. It should fill the eyeballs and wash the ears with brights and louds and whispers and shadows. I didn’t love this movie, but I love what this movie represented, solid filmmaking with an eye towards future installments. If you’re forced to go along, but you’re not sure if you’ll fit in, you’ll be fine.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (2024) is Rated PG-13 for swears, apes being bludgeoned, shot, dragged, and thrown from heights. There are explosions and chases and spears to legs. It is not overly gory but there’s enough blood to know someone got hurt.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: MontiLee Stormer
MontiLee Stormer is a writer of horror, dark and urban fantasy. She’s also is a troublemaker, concocting acts of mayhem and despair for her own selfish pleasure. An avid movie watcher, she prefers horror but will see just about anything if you're buying. Poltergeist (1982) is her favorite movie and she actively hates The Shining (1980) due to its racism, misogyny, the butchering of the source material. She could host a TEDtalk on this single subject. Writing about herself in the third person is just a bonus.

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