KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Profaning Caesar’s Legacy and Monkey (R)evolution. [REVIEW]

Do I see prospects for a new, good trilogy in Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes? Yes.

Marcin Konczewski

21 May 2024

Maybe this isn’t 100% my circus, because the script is quite predictable, the pacing uneven, and the character relationships handled somewhat inconsistently, but they’re still my monkeys. Indeed – Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes doesn’t reach the storytelling level of Reeves’ brilliant War for the Planet of the Apes, facing a few issues, yet it still holds up as a good film. Once again, the universality and resonance of this story hit the mark, because a monkey is like a wolf to another monkey, and the visual side simply dazzles. Just for the shots and immersive journey into another world, it’s worth treating yourself to a trip to the cinema.

At the center of this new story, set several generations after Caesar, is a young chimpanzee named Noa. The hero’s village is attacked by the imperialistically minded troops of the ape king Proximus. The young man sets out to rescue his loved ones. Along his way, he encounters an orangutan named Raka and a young human girl named Mae. As you can see, it’s a familiar story. The most interesting things happen here “in between,” in moments of pause and breath, where we can get to know the characters from a more intimate side. Importantly, it’s very easy to immerse oneself in this world because… it looks alive. This must be noted from the outset – given current CGI standards, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is a gem. This is Wes Ball’s production’s strongest point. The shots and computer effects are amazing, the apes appropriately hairy, their expressions natural. The greenery-covered landscapes, with metallic bars hidden among the leaves, wrecks subtly suggesting they were once human-made places, not without reason evoke thoughts of The Last of Us, especially aesthetically, reminiscent of Craig Mazin’s series. However, unlike the HBO production, here the creators venture towards exploring myths and the most primitive, cruel mechanisms that constitute the presented world – in every reality, there are entities that will seek to dominate others, to subjugate and enslave them. This departure point significantly diverges from the Shakespearean motifs that dominated Matt Reeves’ trilogy finale. The creators intriguingly outline not only the conflict between the apes but also that between humans and their “successors” as rulers of the earth. They do not provide clear answers, do not judge, do not resolve the dispute over the right to dominance, or more aptly, coexistence.

kingdom of the planet of the apes

It’s hard not to compare Ball’s film with Reeves’ productions, which in my conviction are among the best reboots in the history of cinema. The second and third parts of his trilogy under his direction were masterpieces. Kingdom may not have achieved their level and dramaturgy, yet I still consider it a worthy production, because it interestingly and differently approaches the themes and storylines about Caesar. It doesn’t try to replicate them but uses them as a starting point to tell its own story, to create entirely different myths, to place new pieces on the board. Because everything indicates that the film is the starting point for a further narrative. Perhaps that’s why it suffers a bit from the shadow of Genesis of the Planet of the Apes, which falls behind in quality compared to the subsequent parts. It’s still a good film, yet it’s not without a few stumbles. The main issue with Kingdom is the schematics and clichés of the story itself – Chekhov’s guns are very prominently displayed, the plot unfolds predictably, from one bead to another. There are no surprises. The delineation of certain relationships (especially between Noa, his close ones, and Mae) is quite uneven, which is rather odd given the uneven pace of the narrative. There seems to be room for their development, as there are moments of elongation, of losing the rhythm of storytelling. Meanwhile, one must take on faith the depth and tension of certain relationships because there aren’t adequate foundations for them. Still, one enters this story fairly quickly because it’s been known for ages. Not only thanks to the epic scope of the visuals mentioned but also due to its very humanistic message. The synthesis of earthly reality here is quite cruel – there will always be a stronger force wanting to conquer, dominate the weaker. The equality of ideas and the principles of the legendary Caesar are distorted here, and the whole thing deftly operates in an ambiance closer to fantasy than science fiction. Elements related to evolution, viruses, and the construction of the presented world are secondary in the perspective of myth, legend, and even fairy tale. This narrative draws a lot from them, remaining quite serious and exposing rather obvious, cruel mechanisms. And it proves that there’s still space to talk about them and condemn them.

planet of the apes


It’s a shame that the weakest element of the whole is the… human subplot. It’s rather lazily and inconsistently handled. Overall, it seems almost… unnecessary. Why almost? Because the final scene changes everything and signals a great conflict that we might see in a sequel. Freya Allan’s acting didn’t convince me again. I liked one scene where she gazes meaningfully into the echoes. It nicely encapsulates her character upon closer examination. However, her appearance and continued presence are rather weakly justified – where did she come from, why her, and for what reason is she alone? From a human perspective, her mission is simply… foolish. And wasting the potential of William H. Macy is downright egregious. Fortunately, everything is compensated by the ape storyline – Noa is convincing, interesting, undergoes intriguing changes on-screen. One can see a fully-fledged conflict and ruptures in a world that once tried to build the legendary Caesar. Utilizing and distorting his legacy is the best element of this story’s message. Serkis did something unique, and it would be a mistake to cut ties with that. Ball knew this, hence he chose a different, correct path.

Do I see prospects for a new, good trilogy in Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes? Yes. The conflict is well-drawn, and the world engulfs completely. It’s good that Wes Ball leans more towards fairy tales, legends, and myths set in a world after destruction and moves away from riding on the success of Reeves’ films. That wouldn’t have worked. Thanks to this, despite a few flaws, we have another successful, visually stunning production set in a dystopian atmosphere.

Marcin Konczewski

Marcin Konczewski

The founder of the Kon (Horse) Movie fanpage, where he transforms into a film animal who gallops with pleasure through the multiverse of superhero productions, science-fiction, fantasy and all kinds of animations. If he had to say something about himself, he would say that Kon is a pop culture lover, a self-proclaimed critic constantly looking for a human in cinema, a fan of non games, literature, dinosaurs and Batman. Professionally, a teacher (by choice), always opposed to the concrete education system, strongly pushing alternative forms of education. He quietly writes fairy tales and fantastic stories for his little son. A Polish philologist by education. He collaborates with several publishing houses and YouTube channels.

See other posts from this author >>>