‘KINGDOM’ Proves the PLANET OF THE APES Saga Has Lost None of its Vitality

A pun-free review of the newest film in the long-running franchise

Photo courtesy of and © 20th Century Studios.

With the “Caesar Trilogy” concluded, I had assumed that the rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise had run its course. It was a surprise that snuck up on me to learn that a new film, directed by Wes Ball, was set to drop.

For more than half a century, the long-running franchise has proven its legs: a rare series with tremendously consistent quality despite having great variety, uniqueness, and sometimes considerable budgetary constraints among its many entries (even the oft-maligned Tim Burton remake has its charms, which we’ll discuss in our upcoming Two Cents Film Club revisit).

Taking place some generations after the Caesar arc, the new Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes takes us further from contemporary reality and further into a world becoming like that of the 1968 original film, with humanity in decline and most having devolved to a more animalistic state, having lost the power of speech.

Photo courtesy of and © 20th Century Studios.

This is a world being reclaimed by nature, and if you know director Wes Ball, that’s been his calling card from the start. His 2011 post-apocalyptic short film Ruin, set in a crumbling urban sprawl being overtaken with green vegetation, caught the attention of Fox and put him in the director’s seat for the Maze Runner films which had a similar aesthetic.

Chimpanzee Noa is a member of a peaceful tribe of intelligent apes who occupy a small village, and the son and heir of its chief. When his village is raided and abducted by another warlike tribe of aggressor apes, Noa must journey to find and rescue them.

On his journey he encounters new companions – Raka, an orangutan who is reverent to the memory of Caesar, and a human girl whom the pair dub “Nova” (a callback to the original films).

Photo courtesy of and © 20th Century Studios.

As the trio journey and learn more about each other, they learn that the apes who attacked the village are part of a growing empire attempting to unite ape-kind by force (not at all unlike human empires), and lorded by a cruel and vengeful king, Proximus Caesar.

Proximus keeps among his advisors a simpering William H. Macy as an intelligent, literate human who remains a keeper of the knowledge of humanity’s civilized and technological past – a past which Proximus hopes to take possession of to further advance his kingdom.

Photo courtesy of and © 20th Century Studios.

The tale becomes a race to the MacGuffin as Noa and his companions work to beat Proximus and his army to the secrets held in an impenetrable human vault.

Kingdom maintains the social conscience that’s inherent to the entire series, but has the distinction of being, in my opinion, the most action-packed entry. Many action setpieces pepper the film, including treacherous climbs, numerous battle sequences, chases on horseback, ambushes, and even a flood, but the tale still maintains the beating heart of the franchise, using ape characters to champion the better elements of humanity like trust, understanding, and compassion – over brutality, cruelty, and xenophobia.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is one of the best films in a franchise that I love, and I think an improvement over the last film (which I really like!).

Having proven himself as a capable director, I hope director Wes Ball will get the opportunity to tell stories outside of this particular arena and become, like George Miller, more than just “the post-apocalyptic guy”, but for now I’m glad he’s flexing his muscles for this spectacular adventure on the Planet of the Apes.

Previous post PLANET OF THE APES (1968): CinAPES is a Madhouse – Roundtable Reviews [Two Cents]
Next post CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (1972): The Revolt of the Cin-APES – Roundtable Reviews [Two Cents]