Genre: Action/Adventure
Director: Wes Ball
Cast: Owen Teague, Freya Allan, Peter Macon, Lydia Peckham, Travis Jeffrey, Kevin Durand, Neil Sandilands, William H. Macy
Runtime: 2 hrs 18 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence)
Released By: Walt Disney
Official Website: 

Opening Day: 9 May 2024

Synopsis: Many years after the reign of Caesar, a young ape goes on a journey that will lead him to question everything he’s been taught about the past and make choices that will define a future for apes and humans alike.

Movie Review:

Few would have thought ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ could revive a decades-old franchise, but it managed to do not just that but also give birth to a trilogy with ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ and ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’, representing one of the most successful second go-rounds in Hollywood. It also left a tough act to follow, and to be sure, this first chapter of what is hoped to be a new trilogy for the series doesn’t quite match up to ‘Rise’; notwithstanding that, it is in its own right a rich, soulful and engaging adventure that offers more than enough smarts and thrills to kickstart a new beginning.

A brief prologue depicts a funeral ceremony for Caesar, the beloved ape leader who had succumbed to his wounds at the end of the last movie, and whose tenet of ‘apes together, strong’ became a rallying cry to unite their species. The significance of this will become apparent later, as writer Josh Friedman wisely builds this ‘Kingdom’ on the hard-fought lessons of Caesar’s legacy. Indeed, about 300 years later, a bellowing bonobo despot named Proximus (Kevin Durand) has twisted the ideals of Caesar to serve his quest for absolute power, amassing a kingdom in a coastal colony that aims to break open an iron vault which he believes contains all of mankind’s information and technology and can help advance the evolution of his species.

It is this tyrant and his army that the young chimpanzee Noa (Owen Teague) finds himself up against, after his clan’s peaceful existence is disrupted one evening by an unprovoked attack by the troops under the generalship of the fearsome Sylva (Eka Darville). They believe Noa’s clan is harbouring a young human female Mae (Freya Allan) after following her scent to their community, and end up subjugating the whole lot after burning down their whole village. Along his journey to free his clan, Noa finds a companion in the wise old orangutan Raka (Peter Macron), a devout follower of the original Caesar’s teachings who shares the true wisdom behind Caesar’s quest for peace with mankind.

Than try to match the spectacle of his predecessors, director Wes Ball (of ‘The Maze Runner’ trilogy) chooses instead to emphasise Noa’s coming-of-age throughout a lengthy but never boring two-and-a-half hours. Ball lets his audience feel Noa’s world before and after the invasion by Proximus’ army, behold how Noa takes in a whole new reality he had hitherto been oblivious to, and eventually come into his own as the leader of his clan. As part of Noa’s transformation, Ball also carefully develops the relationship Noa forges with both Raka and Mae, both of whom will shape what sort of leader he will choose to be as well as how he thinks of the ape-human dynamic.

Unlike its predecessors therefore, ‘Kingdom’ unfolds at a much more measured pace, taking its time to develop not only its characters but also the world in which they inhabit. Oh yes, there is plenty of world-building at work here, detailing the community Noa’s clan had forged, both within their own and with the falcons they tame, and the colony Proximus has built by bending the will of his fellow simians and borrowing Caesar’s ideas to bolster his own dictatorship. This is even more a world of the apes than any of the films in the last trilogy, and Ball conceives an incredibly tactile universe where the apes are both similar yet different to humans.

That said, what ‘Kingdom’ does lack is edge. While the confrontations – be it between Noa and Proximus or even between Noa and Mae – are captivating, we wish that they were pushed to more visceral levels. Both philosophically and physically, we wish the film had gone to greater extremes, by being less subtle and more primal in its conflicts and in combat. Though the action is clean and has scope, it is not nearly as thrilling as the last trilogy, and we would be lying if we didn’t admit that we missed the sheer adrenaline rush that the previous films delivered with their ballistic action spectacle.

Amidst the inevitable expectation from the last trilogy, ‘Kingdom’ offers a solid, if not yet compelling, possibility of a new beginning for the series. Like we said, it was wise of Ball not to attempt to emulate his predecessors, but carve out a different way forward built on how history can be reclaimed, reframed and re-purposed with time and with misplaced ambition. It is in many ways tamer than what it could be, but with subsequent instalments, we hope it will get bolder, more provocative and definitely more exhilarating. We won’t call it an evolutionary step forward, but at least ‘Kingdom’ takes a sturdy step in the right direction.

Movie Rating:

(Not quite as exhilarating as its immediate predecessors, this new chapter in the Apes franchise nevertheless offers more than enough smarts and thrills to take the series in the right direction)

Review by Gabriel Chong



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