Movie Review

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes

PG-13

GENRE

Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

CAST

Owen Teague as Noa; Freya Allan as Mae; Peter Macon as Raka; Kevin Durand as Proximus Caesar; William H. Macy as Trevathan; Travis Jeffery as Anaya; Lydia Peckham as Soona; Neil Sandilands as Koro; Sara Wiseman as Dar

DIRECTOR

Wes Ball

DISTRIBUTOR

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

IN THEATERS

May 10, 2024

REVIEWER

Emily Tsiao

Movie Review

In the 2011 film, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Will Rodman attempted to create a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. When he tested the new drug on a chimpanzee namd Bright Eyes, it made her more intelligent. And when she later gave birth to a son named Caesar, the baby chimp was able to talk.

Unfortunately, things didn’t go so well from there. The drug lost efficacy after just a few years. And the new formulation—while giving apes the ability to speak—was infectious and deadly to humans.

As the events of successive sequels (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes) show us,the human population was eventually decimated by the virus. Human survivors went underground, allowing apes to rise up and become the dominant species on Earth.

Caesar led the primates through that transition, but he’s several generations dead now. Nature has reclaimed the world. Most humans are mute and primitive. And apes, though still the dominant force, have long forgotten their roots too.

But that all changes when Noa, a young chimpanzee, meets Mae, a human girl who can speak.

Mae’s presence in Noa’s village causes his peaceful clan to be attacked by another tribe of apes. Noa escapes, but his father is murdered, his people are kidnapped, and their homes burned to the ground.

Noa teams up with Mae after learning that she knows where his clan has been taken. But if there’s one thing that every ape knows, it’s this: Never trust a human.

Positive Elements

Noa’s clan is respectful of all species. When collecting eagle eggs for a bonding ceremony, Noa is adamant that he won’t take all the eagle’s eggs (which is against their clan law, since it would detrimentally affect the eagle population) even though it means he won’t be able to participate in the coming-of-age ritual. And in general, they are a peaceful tribe.

We see close familial bonds. Several characters act bravely and selflessly. Noa is encouraged to show mercy to Mae by giving her a blanket when she’s cold.

And, as you might expect, at various points different characters put their lives on the line for each other.

Spiritual Content

The ape who orchestrated the attack on Noa’s village, Proximus, believes that he is Caesar reborn. Those who follow him seem to worship him. And they recite a creed akin to the responses a church congregation might repeat back to a pastor or worship leader.

But for all his talk about being the new Caesar, Proximus has also learned about the concept of evolution from Trevathan, another human who can read and speak. Proximus says that he doesn’t want to wait for evolution to occur naturally, since he’s a mortal ape and will die before that happens. Rather, he hopes to speed up the evolution process by breaking into a human vault containing information about the past.

Noa’s clan isn’t religious, per se, but they do share a bond with the eagles they raise.

Sexual Content

Primitive humans travel in herds called echoes. They wear makeshift clothing that covers critical anatomy but little else.

Apes do not wear clothing other than some ornamental pieces, but they also don’t need to since they’re covered in fur.

Raka, an orangutan who joins Noa and Mae, says another male orangutan he was apparently close to was destroyed by Proximus. The way Raka talks about that relationship could be interpreted as it being more than just a good friendship.

Violent Content

Proximus has no regard for any life but his own. He states that he’ll kill as many apes as necessary to achieve his ends. And he also makes it clear that he plans to kill or lock humans up in cages once he’s done.

Raka preaches the creed of the original Caesar—namely that no ape should harm another. Unfortunately, many apes, including Noa’s usually peaceful clan, are forced to disobey this law in self-defense due to Proximus’ violent tendencies.

Apes working for Proximus use lances equipped with tasers to subdue their fellow primates. Others employ spears, killing their victims. And when weapons won’t do, the apes are capable of giving each other quite the beatdown, resulting in many a bloodied face.

When Noa realizes that Proximus will use the information (and weapons) in the vault to dominate the planet, he works with Mae to stop him. They create makeshift bombs to blow up a dam and flood the vault. And when that happens, many apes drown.

Mae uses a gun to kill an ape who is about to slice the throat of Noa’s clanmate. She also strangles Trevathan when he threatens to tell Proximus of her plans to flood the vault.

Eagles under the control of Noa’s clan attack an ape with their talons and beaks, causing him to fall off a cliff. Another ape falls from a great height after the metal cable he’s clutching is zapped by one of the taser lances—though he survives. We see the bodies of many apes who were killed by Proximus’ soldiers.

One gorilla targets Noa repeatedly. He murders Noa’s father, hunts down Mae (whom Proximus wants since he believes she can get him into the human vault) and later chases Noa through the vault as it’s flooding, more focused on killing the chimp than escaping the water.

Mute humans are hunted down by apes, who use nets and ropes to trip their victims and drag them through the underbrush. It’s unclear what the apes plan to do with those they capture; but given their violent treatment (several humans are tackled and beaten), it can be assumed the apes kill them for sport.

Ape and human characters are sometimes dragged across the ground by riders on horses. A couple of apes drown after falling into a river, and another ape drowns elsewhere as well. A village is burned to the ground. Several apes are knocked to the ground when a chain they’re pulling snaps and hits them all. There are other perilous moments.

We see the remnants of a fish on a butcher’s table. Many other fish have been hung out to dry for food. Noa is devastated when the eagle egg he’s carrying is crushed before the bird can hatch. A horse is tasered to scare it into running, and others are whipped during labor.

Crude or Profane Language

The s-word is used three times.

Drug and Alcohol Content

None.

Other Negative Elements

Although Mae acts in what she believes is in the world’s best interest, the ends don’t necessarily justify the means. And while some apes, like Noa, desire peaceful coexistence between man and ape, Mae prioritizes her own species above theirs, arguably making her no better, morally speaking, than the apes who follow Proximus.

Noa and his clanmates are devastated to learn that apes were not always dominant. Rather, they were locked up in cages at zoos or experimented on in labs. And when Noa learns that Mae knew this, it fractures their friendship irreparably.

Characters lie. Someone betrays her compatriots. A bad guy acts cowardly. A chimpanzee blows a raspberry. Noa and his friends joke that one of their village elders is crazy.

Conclusion

When the first Planet of the Apes film came out in 1968, it was a national phenomenon, earning more than $32 million (about $290 million by today’s standards). It was nominated for two Academy Awards and earned makeup artist John Chambers an honorary Oscar for his work in creating the franchise’s unique primate faces. That film’s finale, in which astronaut George Taylor comes across a ruined Statue of Liberty, is one of the most iconic images from 1960s film.

Well, the franchise has dimmed in popularity. The makeup effects have been replaced by mo-cap enabled CGI. And frankly, it’s hard to hold the attention of an audience that already knows the twist ending.

But here we are with the fourth film in the new reboot series. And … it’s about what I’ve already described.

Language makes a brief, somewhat comical appearance when Mae inadvertently teaches Noa the s-word. Violence floods the film as surely as water floods the vault Proximus tries to breach. And of course, there’s a bit of conversation about evolution, since the apes we see here haven’t progressed much further in the ways of speech and intelligence than the primitive humans they hunt.

These problems may be navigable for families with teens—it could even start some interesting conversations about the treatment of animals and the “hubris” of mankind (as the film tells us this led to humanity’s downfall).

But overall, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes pales in comparison to the original flick. Because really, every good message that the franchise has tried to convey has already been said. And you just can’t recreate the intrigue of that original twist ending.

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