Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes
Stars: (Apes) Owen Teague, Kevin Durand, Lydia Peckham, Trevis Jeffery, Sara Wiseman, Peter Macon, Neil Sandilands, Eka Darville and Ras-Samuel. (Humans) Freya Allan, William H. Macy and Dichen Lachman
Director: Wes Ball
Scriptwriter: Josh Friedman based on characters by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver. Premise from the novel “Planet of the Apes” by Pierre Boulle
Composer: John Paesano
Cinematography: Byula Pados
Oddball Entertainment/20th Century Studios
Rating: PG-13 for violence and themed material
Running Length: 145 Minutes

Who can forget the ending of the first “Planet of the Apes” film when Charleton Heston rounded a curve on the beach and saw the head of the Statue of Liberty in the water. What an ending for a film and then everyone ran to the nearest bookstore to purchase the hard copy of Pierre Boulle's novel. Present day, the theme of who is the higher power, man or ape, has come back to ape. Josh Friedman’s screenplay gives us a future when a virus has caused humans to lose the ability to speak and gives apes the ability to speak. Much time has now passed. Since apes are supposed to be the highest animal creature close to man, apparently, the virus doesn’t go down the line far enough so we would have talking horses (excuse me, "Mr. Ed".)  This scenario sets the storyline up for at least two sequels, and has a rivalry among the apes as to who will be the leader, a peaceful one or a military-type, and doesn’t this sound familiar?

The story begins peacefully with a small village of chimpanzees living in the mountains and they train eagles. Watching them gather eagle eggs with gentleness goes with the calmness of this group, from adults to children. Alas, comes raiders and destruction. A young adult, Noa (Owen Teague in a notable role) had noticed someone following him when he was gathering eggs. Later, after the raid and Noa going to find his family, he encounters this shadowy figure again, but has a new friend with him, an orangutan named Raka (Peter Macon) and together they capture the person following them, a white woman named Mae (Freya Allan in an athletic role). To their surprise, she can speak and tells them where the villagers are, in exchange for food and a blanket. Noa learns from Raka, about the teachings of a historic ape from long ago, also named Caesar.  He was wise and wanted peace. After several adventures, they find where Noa’s clan is and meet the new leader there, a pompous ape named Proximus Caesar (Kevin Durand in a dominating role) who has workers that are trying to open a gigantic vault by the sea, where there are supposed to be superior weapons. Secretly Noa and Mae begin to work together to free Noa’s people and from here on, it is a battle of survival that works for both sides. Noa has his tribe back and Mae finds a way to go to her home. Proximus doesn’t want either to leave and it is a fight for survival. Surprisingly, in Proximus camp is a human, Trevathan (William H. Macy) who works on the ape’s side, a turncoat. Who gets the weapons first?  Are they workable weapons? What about the eagles? Take notes, there will undoubtedly be a sequel.

“Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” is a thrilling film. Man against beast, but in this universe, who is considered a man and who is the beast? If it weren’t for that virus, none of this would have happened---and who developed the virus in the first place. Exciting chase scenes, battle scenes, and Kevin Durand as a power-hungry ape gives new meaning to the word “Caesar.” There have been many Caesars in the past of this series, both working for their people or working against them and only for themselves. The director of this film, Wes Ball (“The Maze Runner” series) does a very good job at keeping the action going and the same time letting the audience see what emotions are being played out. He sets the calming scenes just right, against a lush background of green vegetation and birds.

The acting is skillfully done and the actors, with the exception of William H. Macy (Trevathan) and Freya Allan (Mae), had to attend “Ape School” for six weeks to be taught how to be an ape.  They also wore motion-capture suits for the real-life intensity of the film.

Cinematography by Gyula Pados is wonderfully done, from showing the ruins of 500 years past when humans ruled the world.  There are hulks of ships and remnants of buildings, overgrown with vines. How did humans manage, the apes declare. Such large ships on the shoreline, so many steel rails. Then, there is the stunt work and escapes and all in costume. Gives the word “cliffhanger” new meaning.

For those in the audience who remember seeing the first “Planet of the Apes” film--- and are going to see this film---they will not be disappointed. Talking animals was a shock and that was in the age of television’s “Mr. Ed” The Talking Horse. Here we go again with talking apes and humans who can’t speak. For now, that is. A world of up-side-down and apes who train eagles.  A study in different species living on the same planet and co-existing with each other.  But then, as with all peaceful scenes, there is a snake in the grass.  Who was here first.

Copyright 2024 Marie Asner

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