Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes film poster and movie review

Movie Reviews

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes

Reviewed by:
Luke Bonanno on May 8, 2024

Theatrical Release:
May 10, 2024

Though questionable on paper and short on well-known talent, this new Apes sequel is a smart, rich and technically stunning adventure.

Running Time145 min


Running Time 145 min


Wes Ball

Josh Friedman (story), Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (characters), Pierre Boulle (novel)

Owen Teague (Noa), Freya Allan (Nova/Mae), Kevin Durand (Proximus Caesar), Peter Macon (Raka), William H. Macy (Trevathan), Travis Jeffery (Anaya), Lydia Peckham (Soona), Neil Sandilands (Koro)

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (2024)

by Luke Bonanno

When you think of the most iconic and triumphant film franchises of all time, certain series spring to mind: Star Wars, The Godfather, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Toy Story, James Bond, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, and whatever superhero sagas of the past quarter-century that have most resonated with you. You probably don’t think of the Planet of the Apes. Maybe that’s because the line consists of two rather different canons decades removed, the former of which by most accounts is one landmark movie and a parade of underwhelming sequels. But if you set aside that originally quintet and also the 2001 Tim Burton remake, you are left with what for me ties the Godfather and Dark Knight Trilogies for the third greatest film franchise ever by simple 5-star rating average.

Released from 2011 to 2017, that trilogy — Rise of, Dawn of, and War for The Planet of the Apes — was a landmark achievement in mainstream summer moviemaking to the surprise of many. But it never quite reached quite large enough of an audience to make it a true cultural phenomenon on the order of the franchises I mentioned up front. It didn’t win a single Oscar and never cracked the top five films of the year at the box office, although it came close. The predominantly young male audience that provides Internet consensus never embraced it like a Nolan or Marvel epic. You’d have a hard time finding someone with negative things to say about any of those three films, but you’d also have a moderately hard time finding multiple people in your social circle who made a point of seeing the trilogy in full.

With that in mind, Fox’s Disney’s decision to expand the franchise seven years after a thoughtful, logical narrative end seems like a dubious undertaking. If three near-masterpieces couldn’t command the respect they so clearly deserve, how would a new sequel set generations later from the director of the Maze Runner trilogy do the job? Nonetheless, like it or not, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes arrives this week, attempting to kick off the summer movie season with a bang bigger than the one The Fall Guy made last week.

The orangutan raka (peter macon), chimpanzee noa (owen teague), and human female nova/mae (freya allen) are the principal protagonists of "kingdom of the planet of the apes. "

I am probably no better equipped to judge Wes Ball’s body of work than you, having seen the first Maze Runner, made during the dystopian YA sci-fi cinema boom of the 2010s, and not cared enough to go any further. The three Maze Runner films are the extent of Ball’s directing filmography and though this fact didn’t fill me with hope, Kingdom proves to be a genuinely good time, a movie that stands on its own instead of repeating the beats of the prior Apes trilogy. It is a smart and rich and technically stunning adventure which is surprisingly short on well-known on-camera talent, but exciting and well-made all the same.

Opening with Caesar’s send-off, Kingdom jumps ahead and directs our attention to a trio of egg-hunting chimpanzees living among the advanced, intelligent primate societies in elaborately constructed jungle worlds. The brave and somewhat reckless Noa (voiced/motion capture performed by Owen Teague) emerges as our protagonist. Noa’s village is attacked and his family endangered by violent mask-wearing apes with a big plan and the numbers to see it through. In his quest for vengeance, Noa runs into the wise orangutan Raka (Peter Macon) and a young adult human female named Nova (Freya Allen), who knows a lot more than she lets on.

Screenwriter Josh Friedman, an irregular and erratic contributor to film whose past story credits include Chain Reaction (1996), Terminator: Dark Fate (2019), and Avatar: The Way of Water (2022) and who was attributed for the screenplays of Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds (2005) and Brian De Palma’s The Black Dahlia (2006), does a very good job of returning to the compelling 2010s trilogy universe (chiefly constructed by husband and wife Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver) without ever giving us déjà vu. The characters are new, the settings are new, the stakes are new. That was one of the defining features of Jaffa and Silver’s Apes trilogy. You never knew what you were getting and who the human actors along for the ride would be.

If the sight of an ape riding a horse doesn't knock you off your bicycle, you're likely to appreciate some of the most striking and powerful visuals of 2024.

In Kingdom, our two flesh-and-blood human performers are Allen of Netflix’s “The Witcher” and welcome veteran William H. Macy as a historian/pawn. Neither makes a huge impression, but nor do they have to in a story that is so brilliant visually and Shakespearean dramatically. It’s criminal that the state-of-the-art visuals of the previous Apes trilogy never garnered an Academy Award, especially when you consider that Disney’s “live-action” The Jungle Book remake won that award during an off-year in the midst of the series. It’s not surprising that these computer-animated apes are rendered so convincingly, but it still makes for dynamic cinema, especially in “IMAX”, which is how my theatrical screening was branded. Too few films like Apes and Avatar blur the line between live-action and animation with such skill and artistry. There is an immense world of possibility at the border of the two mediums, which studios seem to forget when assigning all their big budgets to spandex movies. Of course, on Apes movies, it is easy to forget the crew’s achievements and just get lost in the storytelling, which is what the makers would prefer.

Kingdom does not quite reach the lofty heights of the last trilogy, which peaked with middle installment Dawn, but even so it easily stands as one of 2024’s most fulfilling releases to date. I would be highly surprised if a multitude or any of this summer’s popcorn movies packs the creative punch of this, a film that rivals Dune: Chapter Two for the year’s most high-octane cinematic thrills.

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