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Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes – movie review

More monkey business. Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is another reboot … reset … reconfiguration of the 1968 movie Planet of the Apes, which starred Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowall. In fact, this is the tenth picture in the extended franchise (and was mostly shot in Australia). But does it live up to expectations? “Yes” and “no”, but more of that later.

The story takes place several generations after the great ape Caesar died. He was the one who oversaw simians and mankind living in harmony. But things have since gone backwards. Noa (Owen Teague) is a young ape who knows nothing of the outside world or about Caesar. He lives in a busy clan that sings to and trains eagles to fish for them. The group’s rite of passage begins when the young are tasked with securing eagle eggs high up in the mountains and then nurturing them. Noa’s imminent coming of age ceremony is upset by the arrival of a human female named Mae (Freya Allen). Their encounter results in Noa undertaking a grand and dangerous adventure.

He first encounters a wise old ape called Raka (Peter Macon), an orangutan who remembers Caesar’s teachings of decency and morality. Raka preaches tolerance and peace. Noa’s adversary is a powerful and imposing gorilla named Sylva (Eka Darville), who heads an ape army. His army is beholden to the narcissistic Proximus Caesar (Kevin Durand), who craves technological knowledge that Mae has. He has embarked on a quest to capture her, and tasked Sylva to bring her in. Sylva will stop at nothing to track Mae down and that includes raiding and torching other clans – like Noa’s. When his family and friends are captured, Noa is determined to fight back. At the same time, he has a decidedly uneasy relationship with the smart Mae. He doesn’t know whether he can trust her. Also in the picture is human captive Trevathan (William H. Macy), who accepts the new status quo in which apes rule … and teaches the primates history.

Wes Ball (The Maze Runner series) directs Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes from a script by Josh Friedman (Avatar: The Way of Water). It’s undoubtedly a good looker. The visuals are impressive. Cinematographer Gyula Pados (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) has done a fine job. The sound design adds to the gravitas in the film. I enjoyed the tentative “dance” between Mae and Noa, which carried on throughout the film, as the pair continued to feel each other out. Noa gains insights as the narrative evolves, while Mae appears to want to reestablish human control … or does she?

Freya Allen (Baghead) brings a mysterious quality to her representation of Mae. Sylva is a mighty force to be reckoned with as one of the villains of the piece. In the role, Australian actor Eka Darville is positively fearsome. In contrast, I also appreciated the sympathetic representation of Raka by Peter Macon.

Nevertheless, the storyline is dragged out. At 2 hours 25 minutes, the movie is long. If it had been tightened, it might have had greater impact. And, surprise, surprise (NOT!), the ending sets up yet another sequel.

Alex First

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