Caesar’s Reign Continues In Exciting Return To Sci-Fi Roots


  • Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is an exciting new story set in the world of Caesar.
  • The film balances action and emotional impact, exploring a larger universe that has implications for the future of the franchise.
  • The special effects remain top-notch, as does the reboot trilogy’s penchant for thoughtful, rousing sci-fi.

Over the years, the Planet of the Apes movie franchise has shifted often between camp and serious science-fiction, sometimes in the same film. Then came 20th Century’s reboot trilogy, starting with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a paranoid viral-thriller snuck within a reboot of a long-dormant franchise. From there, director Matt Reeves took over, giving us Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes, each more bleak than their predecessor.

Ape clans have taken up residence in the oasis that Caesar sought to colonize, but humans have reverted to their animalistic nature in their absence. Now battling between enslavement and freedom, outliers in the Ape clans will take sides in a newly burgeoning society.


  • Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is a sweeping adventure grounded by three great central performances.
  • Nods to the previous Apes trilogy make for a satisfying continuation that sets up the future of the franchise.
  • As with the previous trilogy, Kingdom has stunning special effects on par with the last three movies.

Dawn is a gritty and grim survival thriller, while War is a chilly and bleak portrait of man’s last stand against a growing ape empire. Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes continues in this vein, mounting a rousing action-adventure in the crumbling ruins of the human world. Traces of Caesar remain, as do remnants of Andy Serkis’ brilliant work on the franchise, but this is wholly a story about Noa (Owen Teague), an ape from the Eagle Clan that must save his family after disaster strikes and his whole world is burned down in front of him.

Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes Sets Up Its Own Grand Tale

But echoes of the past and glimpses of the future flesh out this world.

Noa does not go on this journey alone. He meets Raka (Peter Macon), a wise Orangutan who passes on the word of Caesar as well as key information about the history of ape and human relations. The teachings of Caesar have become warped and twisted over time, the true meaning lost to most apes. No matter his efforts to bridge the gap between ape and human, Caesar’s name is now used to spread violence and fear across a dawning empire, mythology into madness.

It’s all a reminder of how important the past is, how it can be weaponized by some and protected by others, and how loyalty to the past can warp your vision of the future.

Nova/Mae (Freya Allan) has her own mythology, though. The mysterious human is different from the ones that Noa and his clan call “Echoes”. She wears pants and a tank top instead of paleolithic-esque loincloths. She displays a curiosity and intelligence that Noa has never encountered. And, she can also talk, something humans haven’t been able to do since the simian virus evolved.

Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes Brings Questions Of The Past Into The Future

The same war is destined to be fought over and over.

Allan gives a mostly silent performance and Mae is perhaps the most fascinating of the movie’s characters by default. Her history is a big question mark, but so is everyone else’s. The film doesn’t specify how long it’s been exactly since Caesar’s reign, nor does it explore how Noa’s tribe or Proximus Caesar’s kingdom came to be. It’s all a reminder of how important the past is, how it can be weaponized by some and protected by others, and how loyalty to the past can warp your vision of the future.

That future looks different for everyone, especially Proximus Caesar, whose ambitions remain murky until a genuinely surprising reveal. It’s rare for a studio to not give away a film’s third act in trailers, so it’s refreshing that Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes retains many of the surprises in its back half. It balances spectacle with the expansion of mythology in a way that feels natural — we are talking about a journey that takes place hundreds of years after War for the Planet of the Apes, so mythology is baked into the premise.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes


Wes Ball


20th Century
, Chernin Entertainment
, Oddball Entertainment
, Shinbone Productions


20th Century


Patrick Aison
, Josh Friedman
, Rick Jaffa
, Amanda Silver


Kevin Durand
, Freya Allan
, Peter Macon
, Owen Teague
, Eka Darville
, Sara Wiseman
, Neil Sandilands

As promised, director Wes Ball sets up stories that will presumably be fleshed out in subsequent sequels. Luckily, Noa, Mae, and the new ape world are ripe for exploration. Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes still explores only a fraction of the earth, but hints at a larger universe tease something even grander on the horizon. The film feels like a summer blockbuster in the best ways. Its familiar story doesn’t undermine the emotional impact — “Apes together strong” hits as hard now as it did seven years ago.

Its mysterious adventure assuages any feelings of bloat in its two-and-a-half-hour runtime. Explosive action sequences are well-crafted and the special effects are on par with the groundbreaking motion-capture of the original reboot trilogy. Finally, a captivating epilogue provides some answers while asking questions that will hopefully be answered in the future. Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is a worthy start to this new era of primate domination — in the same way Rise became much more than it initially appeared, Kingdom is poised to take Apes to a new level while bringing it back to its science-fiction roots.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes releases in theaters on May 10. The film is 145 minutes long and rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence/action.

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