Film Review – Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes

There is a pivotal scene early into Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (2024) where the orangutan Raka (Peter Macon) shows a book to the chimpanzee Noa (Owen Teague). “It contains ideas,” Raka says, “The symbols have meaning.” It’s this exchange that best exemplifies the post 2010 Planet of the Apes films. The previous trilogy (consisting of 2011’s Rise, 2014’s Dawn, and 2017’s War) make one of the best blockbuster franchises of recent memory. Yes, the action and special effects are remarkable, but what makes them so successful are the ideas. Racial tensions, class divisions, freedom, revenge, and self-preservation are just a few of the themes running throughout the series. We can be awed by the spectacle, but it’s the philosophy that puts the franchise on a higher artistic pedestal.

Kingdom continues this tradition. While it can be argued that the previous three installments were perfectly contained and that a fourth entry wasn’t needed, this earns its place because of how well it executes its concepts. In a way, it operates like an epilogue, showing us the aftereffects of the previous films and the actions taken by Andy Serkis’ protagonist, Caesar. Caesar is constantly referenced here, even though the setting takes place generations after his passing. And yet, his presence is still felt – to the point that characters view him with religious like reverence. Caesar is worshipped as a Christ figure, whose knowledge has been passed down through history like scripture. However, like many religions, belief can be twisted and corrupted for selfish reasons, and that ends up being the central tension of the narrative.


In the center is Noa, a character caught in the middle of a crisis of faith. After his falcon raising clan is ransacked by violent, extremist apes, Noa goes out hoping to locate and free the remaining survivors. His journey becomes a search of trust – whom he can believe in and whom he can pledge his allegiances. Should he trust Raka, a character who follows Caesar’s teachings of peace, but who seems to live as a recluse? What about Mae (Freya Allan), a feral human who takes a keen interest in Noa and his mission? It was humans who created the virus that nearly wiped themselves out. Can Noa believe in Mae, even though her species have historically been at war with apes? And what of Proximus Caesar (Kevin Durand) the leader of the war apes? Proximus claims that he follows the word of Caesar, but his actions reveal a persona more akin to a dictator. On the flipside, Proximus was able to cultivate a large community (or “kingdom”) of apes – should all that be done away with because he rules with an iron fist?

Director Wes Ball – in coordination with screenwriters Josh FriedmanRick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver – organize all these elements into large sci-fi canvas. There is a fascinating blend of new and old-world aesthetics. The setting may be far into the future, but the environments have clearly reverted into a past world. Skyscrapers, roads, and bridges have been overrun by vegetation. Characters roam places once populated by people. Noa, Raka, and Mae are unaware that the places they traverse used to be malls, hospitals, and areas that were bustling with life and industry. It goes to show how little we know of our own planet. For as much knowledge as we have gathered of history, there is so much left to be discovered. Just like Noa pondering the mysteries held within a book, there are many mysteries left for us to solve.

“Knowledge is power,” as the saying goes. But that doesn’t cover the fact that knowledge can be tainted, misinterpreted, and abused. Noa witnesses this very fact through Proximus. If we look closely, Proximus can be read like a modern-day politician, hiding behind the guise of righteousness and false promises. “For Caesar!” he and his acolytes yell – and yet, we can surmise that Caesar would likely not agree with their methods. In reality, Proximus is only interested in himself. One of the major developments is the discovery of an underground bunker. The bunker was abandoned by humans long ago, but what is inside? Could it be supplies? Resources? Weapons? Whatever it is, Proximus uses the unknown to elevate his stance among his followers. Seeing it all unfold as an outsider, Noa’s perception of Proximus is unclouded by blind faith. The problem is, how can he convince others to do the same, or should he even try? 


The Apes series has been a standout in the special effects department, especially when it comes to the motion capture performances. Although Kingdom lacks the revelatory work Andy Serkis brought to the franchise, it still contains a host of excellent acting. Owen Teague was a strong choice in the lead role – with his large, expressive eyes being the portal into Noa’s mindset. Peter Macon gives Raka a wise yet comedic personality – all those years of isolation may have left an impression on his mental state. Freya Allan brings intrigue and anonymity to Mae, causing us to question her intentions all the way until the very end. And Kevin Durand continues his year of success as Proximus, imbuing the role with a ton of charisma even though he is the villain.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes represents the best of big budget filmmaking. It puts emphasis on character, story, and subject matter, while not skimping out on the thrills. One can sit back and simply take in the visual fireworks on display, while others may come out debating the thematic questions it presents. That approach is a win for everybody. Admittedly, there was no reason for this to be made – the previous trilogy did everything it needed to do to wrap up its story. And yet, Kingdom does not lose any of that special quality that has made the modern Apes so good. Like always, this leaves enough open avenues to be explored in future installments. While I can’t say that I was clamoring to return to this world, I’m glad that I did and look forward to what else comes down the pipeline.




Allen is a moviegoer based out of Seattle, Washington. His hobbies include dancing, playing the guitar, and, of course, watching movies.

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