The New “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” Introduces a Fresh Hero

The “Planet of the Apes” franchise has always been a compelling exploration of power, prejudice, and the rise and fall of civilizations. The latest installment, *Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes*, continues this tradition with a new protagonist and a richly detailed post-apocalyptic world, though it doesn’t entirely escape the shadow of its predecessors.
 A New Hero Emerges
Directed by Wes Ball, *Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes* is set about 300 years after the death of Caesar, the iconic chimpanzee freedom fighter originally portrayed by Andy Serkis. Caesar’s legacy endures, but the focus now shifts to a young chimp named Noa, played by Owen Teague. Noa lives in a small village led by his father, Koro (Neil Sandilands), where apes have adapted to a life of farming and falconry.
Noa’s journey begins when his peaceful village is attacked by a band of mask-wearing apes on horseback. Determined to rescue his captured family and friends, Noa sets off on a perilous quest, guided by the teachings of Caesar, which he learns from a solitary orangutan named Raka (Peter Macon). Raka serves as a mentor figure, imparting wisdom about peace and justice.
 A Trek Through a Beautifully Rendered World
The film excels in its depiction of Noa’s journey through a lush, post-apocalyptic wilderness. The early scenes are particularly captivating, showcasing Noa’s bravery and resourcefulness as he navigates the treacherous landscape. The motion-capture performances are exceptional, with Teague’s portrayal of Noa standing out for its depth and nuance.
Director Wes Ball, known for his upcoming adaptation of *The Legend of Zelda*, brings a keen eye for detail to the film’s visuals. The jungle is rendered in stunning detail, and the apes are depicted with a mix of human emotion and animalistic instincts. The cinematography captures the beauty and danger of this new world, making Noa’s journey both a visual and emotional experience.
The Return of Familiar Themes
While *Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes* introduces new characters and settings, it revisits familiar themes of power and ambition. Noa encounters Proximus Caesar (Kevin Durand), a self-styled dictator who claims to be Caesar’s successor. Proximus is a menacing figure, aided by a human advisor (William H. Macy) who uses tales of ancient Rome to manipulate him. Their camp is a stark contrast to Noa’s village, highlighting the film’s exploration of authoritarianism and the misuse of power.
However, the film’s engagement with these themes remains somewhat superficial. Unlike its predecessors, which delved deeply into the complexities of prejudice and societal collapse, *Kingdom* flirts with these ideas without fully exploring them. The result is a narrative that feels more like an adventure story than a thought-provoking commentary on human and ape nature.
A Mixed Final Act
The film’s nearly two-and-a-half-hour runtime becomes a challenge in the third act, where the story begins to drag. Despite this, the early parts of Noa’s journey and the interactions with Raka and Nova (played by Freya Allan) provide enough compelling moments to maintain interest. Nova, a mute human with a mysterious past, adds another layer to Noa’s journey, though her character’s development is limited.
Final Thoughts
*Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes* offers a visually stunning and emotionally engaging continuation of the franchise. Owen Teague’s Noa is a worthy successor to Caesar, bringing a fresh perspective to the series. The film’s earnestness and commitment to Noa’s hero’s journey stand out in a summer filled with reboots and sequels.
While it may not delve as deeply into its themes as previous installments, *Kingdom* is a thrilling adventure that honors the legacy of Caesar while carving out its own path. It looks beautiful, tells a heartfelt story, and keeps the spirit of the “Planet of the Apes” alive. For fans of the series and newcomers alike, it’s a journey worth taking.

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