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Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes

Matt Reeves may have been replaced by Wes Ball in the director's chair, but this is still an excellent start to a new trilogy.

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It is perhaps crucial to state from the outset that I consider Matt Reeves' two Apes films, specifically Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War of the Planet of the Apes, to be modern sci-fi masterpieces that even a decade later (in the case of Dawn) remain intelligent, gorgeous and sublimely produced. For me, they mark a modern sci-fi landmark and are as much a human achievement as they are a technical one.

It's therefore quite risky for director Wes Ball to pick up 300 years after the end of War of the Planet of the Apes and try to continue the story from where Reeves and actor Andy Serkis buried it so effectively. But that's exactly what Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is, a direct continuation in the same universe where Serkis' Caesar is still idolised among the intelligent apes, but also attempts to set the stage for a new adventure.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes
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It makes me incredibly happy to realise that despite several generational changes and a change of director, this fourth chapter is further proof that 20th Century Fox is on the right track and that the Apes films remain some of the most well-constructed blockbusters on the market today.

It's been 300 years and Caesar is now a myth, but like so many other deceased leaders throughout history, his words, his doctrine, have been interpreted and the intelligent apes that remain the most dominant species on the planet do not agree on how they should be understood. We follow Noa, who lives in a secluded valley with his clan, but his relatively safe existence is suddenly interrupted when an invasive clan comes looking for a specific human, one of the few surviving ones, and worst of all, they come in the name of Caesar - they say.

From here begins a journey through the wreckage of American civilisation in the company of Noa, played masterfully by Owen Teague, Raka played by Peter Macon and of course the human played by our very own Ciri, aka Freya Allan. The story is thought-provoking and saturated with a precarious balancing act of big and small questions, some of which are quite philosophical in nature. It's about biology, about hero worship and mythical figures, about doctrines and laws and whether humans' total dominance over their environment means that they actually deserve the subservient position they hold in this reality.

I frantically searched for the person responsible among the film's crew for creating authentic acting performances. Terry Notary and Andy Serkis shaped the general performance framework in the previous trilogy, but the closest I can come here is Movement Director and choreographer Alain Gauthier. The point is that every actor here, and especially those who donned the motion capture suits, are absolutely sublime. Dialogue, intonation, body language - it's all so subtle, so believable and so endlessly entertaining. In fact, Teague in particular, and the villain played by Kevin Durand, are so good that someone like Freya Allan falls through the cracks. Perhaps it says something about how good these apes are that the humans among them seem more artificial.

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Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes

There are a few criticisms, of course. A length of two hours and 25 minutes is on the high end, and there are certain aspects of the story that could have been trimmed a bit. William H. Macy also makes an appearance and is also slightly out of place, especially next to such brilliant performances from the motion capture monkeys.

But other than that, this is a soulful, exciting and thought-provoking blockbuster that I sincerely hope will do well in cinemas, if only to see what the makers can come up with in a possible sequel. It's not necessarily that this cinematic universe will remain engaging and exciting forever, but for now it's clearly an effective platform from which different stories can be delivered. Go watch Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes.

08 Gamereactor UK
8 / 10
overall score
is our network score. What's yours? The network score is the average of every country's score

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