Kingdom of the Planet  of the Apes  (12A) |Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Wes Ball, US, 2024, 145 mins

Cast:  Owen Teague, Kevin Durand, Freya Allan

Review by Carol Allen

This latest in what has become the Planet of the Apes franchise is remarkable for its stunning make up technology – a far cry from the actors in ape masks and hairy suits of yore – but somewhat disappointing in its story.   Lovely though young Owen Teague is as the central character Noa, one longs for the far more interesting arc of Andy Serkis as Caesar.

We are now a long way down the track from Caesar’s heyday.  Perhaps pushing towards the future world of the original 1968 film, only revealed to be humanity’s future in what was for its time a coup de theatre in its final shot.  The apes are living a simple, tribal life.  Not much in the way of complex social order, apart from Noa’s dad and some of his mates being keen on training eagles – bit like whippets used to be kept in Northern England.  

Noa and his mates in a physically stunning opening sequence go climbing and leaping  up the surrounding mountains stealing birds’ eggs.   But when an empire building, Putinesque giant ape known as Proximus Caesar (Kevin Durand) and his heavy mob destroy their way of life and kidnap most of the colony, Noa with the support of elderly orang outang looking wise ape Raka (Peter Macon) sets off on a quest to right the wrong.   On the road they encounter a young human woman Mae (Freya Allan), who at first, when begging for food from them, seems like the rest of her kind to have sunk into a hopeless feral state.  However rather puzzlingly she’s better dressed than her fellows, when we get a distant glimpse of them (nice trousers, Mae) and like the apes, she can ride a horse. 

Raka comes to a sad end on the road but eventually Noa and Mae catch up with Proximus Caesar’s kingdom on the sea shore – a kingdom which seems to be centred on some sort of rotting fort, presumably built by long gone human technicians, where PC keeps the captive apes slaving away.   There our heroes meet another human, Trevathan (William H Macy), who lives in a book lined shack and seems to have some sort of undefined role in PC’s master plan.  

As a story it’s the sort of mixture we’ve seen before.  Hero goes off on a quest in search of justice, learns lots of life lessons and wins out in the end.   Hope I’m not giving he ending away.  You know it’s inevitable.   There’s lots of impressive action, loads of fighting, lovely cinematography and the technology which enables the ape actors to express human type emotions and speech, while so heavily hidden in their ape personae is impressive.  

Mae remains a bit of a mystery character – a mystery which is partly but not completely solved towards the end.   Oh dear.   And I was hopeful this might be the last of the Ape movies.  Where else can they go?

Well,  the big question, “Can apes and humans share the position of dominant species on the planet without scrapping?” is not yet answered – though looking at how humans fight to be top dogs amongst themselves today and always have done, I’m not convinced it ever will be.