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Written By:

Paul Mount

Director Wes (Maze Runner) Ball picks up the mantle from Matt Reeves as he and screenwriter Josh Friedman find a new story to tell in the Planet of the Apes saga, which, some might argue, came full circle at the end of 2017’s War of the Planet of the Apes with Caesar leading his liberated brothers into the Promised Land where they could fulfil their destiny as the new rulers of the planet Earth. The 21st-century Apes films have been one of the great triumphs of modern genre cinema, made with passion, dedication, and a determination to treat this franchise with the care and attention it deserves. Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is a new chapter in this ongoing story, and comparisons to its three predecessors are, frankly, unnecessary as they told a story in and of themselves but for those with any concerns about quality decline, you’ll be pleased to hear that this is a film that proudly stands shoulder-to-shoulder alongside Rise, Dawn, and War. This is a terrific entry into the ongoing series, a film with a real dramatic heft full of well-crafted characters and boasting next-level visual effects.

Several generations after the events of War, Caesar’s ancestor Noa (Owen Teague) is living a peaceful life amongst the Eagle clan. The mute remains of humanity are now little more than scavengers. Noa soon crosses paths firstly with talking human Nova/Mae (The Witcher’s Freya Allan) and then Proximus Caesar (Kevin Durand), a tyrannical ape who has twisted and corrupted Caesar’s teachings and is determined to access human secrets hidden behind a sealed bunker near the sea so he can impose his will across the whole world. Noa’s encounter with and curiosity about Nova/Mae brings Noa and the entire Eagle clan under the control of Proximus and his gorilla thugs. What lies behind the bunker, and what power can it bestow upon whoever breaches its metal doors?

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes isn’t just a wham-bam action/adventure film – this is a film with heart and soul, the story of characters who want to live in peace but who can’t because even in a society where humans are the underdogs,  human traits such as violence and ambition and a craving for power are never far from the surface. Of course, we don’t yet feel as close to Noa at this point in the story as we did to Caesar early on in Rise, but there’s never any doubt of his bloodline as he strives to do all he can to protect his people and his loved ones.

Once again, we’re in a rich, lush post-human world where the past is never far away. Many scenes feature images of what went before – the great rusted hulks of sea vessels, overgrown cityscapes in the distance, an abandoned baseball ground, and even a few visual nods to 1968’s Planet of the Apes, the film that started it all. The ape ‘motion capture’, so brilliantly realised by Andy Serkis (now credited as an adviser), is pretty much photorealistic. These new apes are capable of a fuller and broader range of physical movement displaying emotions that weren’t quite achievable in the previous trilogy, But now, more than ever, these apes look like real, living creatures and the effects are quite literally breath-taking. There’s a little less action here than we’re used to, but rest assured there are few pulse-racing sequences here and there and a suitably adrenalized climax which brings this particular story to a satisfying end for now – with the caveat of the sinister foreshadowing of battles and conflicts yet to come.

Breathe easy, then. Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes does not betray the history of what’s gone before.  It’s a magnificent, intelligent achievement, and if we’ve any criticism, it might be that the first half-hour is slightly sluggish – this is a new ape world full of new characters, and the film takes its time introducing them all – and it could probably have benefitted from losing 10 or 15 minutes from its nearly 150 minute running time. But in the end, this is a far better film than it has any right to be or than we might have expected it to be, and the story of the Planet of the Apes remains a peerless shining beacon in sci-fi cinema.

KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is in cinemas all across the planet of humans now.


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