Keith’s Movie Korner: Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ a worthy franchise entry

By Keith Walther | Rose Law Group Reporter

Slow pacing and an unoriginal storyline mute the excitement of this sequel, but the visual effects and nuanced plot elements that celebrate and expand on the previous trilogy make it interesting enough to see. “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” is technically a sequel but is set several hundred years after “War for the Planet of the Apes,” establishing it more as a prequel to the original 1968 movie and the next set of films that are sure to be made. This makes it more accessible to people who haven’t had the opportunity to see that prior trilogy, while also rewarding those who have with important nuggets that reference those films.

Roughly 300 years after the death of Caesar, apes have continued to flourish and evolve while humans have digressed, losing their ability to communicate. Noa (Owen Teague) is a proud member of a particular peace-loving clan of apes with a longstanding tradition of raising eagles. When another war mongering clan led by a tyrant who calls himself Proximus Caesar (Kevin Durand) invades, destroying Noa’s village and enslaving his people, Noa sets out on a perilous journey to rescue his family and friends.

As he embarks on this quest alone, he picks up some unlikely companions along the way, including Raka (Peter Macon), an orangutan dedicated to preserving the true history of Caesar and his teachings, and a rather uniquely smart human named Mae (Freya Allan). It remains to be seen if this odd team can topple an ambitiously growing empire to free Noa’s clan or if hidden personal agendas will unravel their risky strategies.

Wes Ball may be a relatively new director in Hollywood, but he does have experience helming a franchise from start to finish, having previously directed “The Maze Runner” trilogy, which was decent. He does successfully use this experience to craft an intriguing albeit slow moving film that is good enough to peak viewer curiosity about where this franchise is heading next. The problem is Ball incorporates the same old storyline of a tyrannical leader conquering and enslaving surrounding areas in his quest for power that has been done across multiple genres from westerns to dramas and even comedies. He styles this movie after “Apocalypto,” which helps but the predictability of outcomes is still easily discernable. Ball then bogs down the pacing with dialogue scenes that do assist in building the foundation, although, it would have been better served to whittle these scenes down to avoid losing the audience.

The strength of a Wes Ball directed production lies with the visuals including cinematography, but especially the special effects. The scenery is stunning, accurately capturing what cityscapes would look like several hundred years in the future without continued human maintenance. The sprawling overgrowth of vegetation is exquisitely detailed, encouraging the audience to fully experience the realism of this post-apocalyptic setting. His attention to detail extends to the depiction of the apes themselves, blending CGI with on-location shooting to capture authenticity in the behaviors and emotional responses of each ape character that surpasses that of the previous trilogy.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming the actors portraying the apes only had to perform voiceovers, because they also had to put on those funky suits with dots all over to actually perform most of the ape movements and facial expressions. Owen Teague, best known for his role in both “It” films, spent multiple days at a Florida ape sanctuary to study every movement they made to mimic those movements and habits more accurately on screen. While he may not be Andy Serkis, who magnificently portrayed Caesar in the prior trilogy, Owen successfully molds the main character into a likable multi-faceted protagonist.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Freya Allan, whose lack of acting talent makes her performance robotic and devoid of emotion. This should come as no surprise after her portrayal of Ciri in the hit Netflix series, “The Witcher,” which is one of only negatives of that show. Luckily this film wasn’t too reliant on her performance, and hopefully it stays that way in subsequent sequels.

“Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” has its fair share of flaws, but there is enough visually stimulating action sequences and a deeper understanding of empire building and historical revisionism that sustain a decent level of entertainment and intrigue throughout the film. The technology and combined use of CGI with motion capture make it worth seeing on the big screen. It likely won’t achieve the blockbuster status Disney was hoping for, but it should do well enough to warrant future sequels.

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May 2024