Review: ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes,’ starring Owen Teague, Freya Allan, Kevin Durand, Peter Macon and William H. Macy

May 8, 2024

by Carla Hay

Owen Teague, Freya Allan and Peter Macon in “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” (Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios)

“Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes”

Directed by Wes Ball

Culture Representation: Taking place on Earth, 300 years after the events of the movie “War for the Planet of the Apes,” the sci-fi/action film “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” features a cast of characters who are apes and humans.

Culture Clash: A group of apes team up with a human to try to defeat an evil dictatorial ape that wants to take over the world. 

Culture Audience: “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the “Planet of the Apes” franchise and sci-fi action films where most of the characters are not human.

Travis Jeffery, Owen Teague and Lydia Peckham in “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” (Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios)

After a slow start, “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” turns into a familiar “good versus evil” sci-fi adventure story with the expected battles. It’s not the best “Planet of the Apes” movie, but it’s not the worst either. The action sequences and how the apes are portrayed should please fans of this franchise. The movie’s biggest flaw is how underdeveloped the human characters are.

Directed by Wes Ball and written by Josh Friedman, “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” is a spinoff/continuation of the trilogy that began with 2011’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (directed by Rupert Wyatt), and continued with 2014’s “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” (directed by Matt Reeves) and 2017’s “War for the Planet of the Apes” (directed by Reeves). The hero ape at the center of this trilogy was Caesar (played by Andy Serkis), who became a legendary leader. “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” takes place on Earth, 300 years after the event of “War for the Planet of the Apes.”

Do viewers need to see this trilogy before seeing “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes”? Probably. That’s because Caesar is mentioned so many times in “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes,” he’s an unseen character in the movie. “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” has a captioned introduction explaining that a virus has caused apes to be superior to humans. Caesar was a brave leader of apes who “stood up for his kind,” but he also believed in a world where it’s possible for apes and humans to peacefully co-exist, even if many humans try to dominate or destroy apes.

In “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” (which was filmed in New South Wales, Australia), humans are almost extinct from Earth. The “good apes” at the center of the story are from the Eagle Clan. These apes believe that they can communicate to eagles through a special ape-singing skills. The apes in the Eagle Clan look for eagle eggs to take and possible bond with when the eagles hatch from the eggs. The Eagle Clan has a rule that if eagle eggs are found in a nest, at least one egg has to be left behind in the nest.

The movie opens during one of these egg-hunting trips to show three young adult ape friends who are hunting together: earnest and intelligent Noa (played by Owen Teague); Noa’s strong-willed love interest Soona (played by Lydia Peckham); and Noa’s daredevil best friend Anaya (played by Travis Jeffery). The Eagle Clan lives in peaceful harmony with each other.

In the beginning of the story, Noa is hesitant and insecure about some things in his life. Noa doesn’t think his eagle-singing skills are up to the level of many other apes in the Eagle Clan. Noa’s parents are supportive, but his father thinks Noa should be more confident.

One day, the Eagle Clan is brutally invaded by an army of apes led by an evil dictator named Proximus Caesar (played by Kevin Durand), who orders that the Clan’s village be burned, and the surviving Eagle Clan members are forced into enslavement. In the chaos and mayhem, Caesar escapes. When he returns to the devastated and burned-out village, his family and friends are missing.

Naturally, Caesar goes on a mission to find his loved ones. Along the way, he meets a wise warrior orangutan named Raka (played by Peter Macon) and a mysterious woman, whom Caesar and Raka name Nova (played by Freya Allan), but she later reveals that her name is Mae. Nova/Mae pretends to be mute for much of the story until (to no one’s surprise), she admits she can talk. Nova/Mae says her deceased mother taught her to pretend to be mute for her own protection because intelligent humans are seen as a threat to apes.

Another human in “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” is Trevathan (played by William H. Macy), who is being held as a prisoner by Proximus Caesar, so that Proximus Caesar can learn all he can about human inventions and knowledge. Trevathan doesn’t have “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” get a meaningful sense of who he really is.

Noa is a little suspicious of Nova/Mae at first, but Raka believes in Caesar’s philosophies and urges Noa to give Nova/Mae a chance to prove her trustworthiness. Nova/Mae is supposed to be enigmatic, but perhaps she’s a little too mysterious because her personality is somewhat dull, even if her action sequences are among the best in the movie. “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” never explains why Nova/Mae runs around in a tank top and jeans, while other humans in the story wear loin cloth outfits.

As for the ape characters, Teague and Macon stand out for their respective performances of Noa and Raka, who develop a protégé/mentor type of relationship. However, all the other ape characters with significant speaking roles, including villain Proximus Caesar, are a little too generic and predictable. The love story between Noa and Soona is a quite tepid. Most of the dialogue in the film is simplistic. These highly intelligent apes should have more interesting conversations.

The action sequences and visual effects in the movie are hit-and-miss but certainly aren’t terrible. Most of all, the story is formulaic but not necessarily in a bad way. The movie has no mid-credits scene or end-credits scene but has the expected ending that guarantees a sequel, since “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” is conceived as the first movie in a trilogy. “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” doesn’t offer any real surprises, but it’s the cinematic equivalent of comfort food for people who are fans of the franchise.

20th Century Studios will release “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” in U.S. cinemas on May 10, 2024, with a sneak preview in U.S. cinemas on May 8, 2024.

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