Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (2024) Review: Masterpiece or Missed Opportunity?

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As an avid fan of the Planet of the Apes franchise, I eagerly anticipated the release of “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes.” The previous trilogy set a high bar, especially with “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” which I regard as a masterpiece of intelligent sci-fi. The trilogy’s emotional depth, compelling storyline, and Caesar’s character made it one of the best genre trilogies ever created. Unfortunately, “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” did not meet my high expectations. While the film has its merits, it falls short of the previous trilogy in several key areas.

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Review: Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes 2024

First, let’s discuss the positives. The cinematography in “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” is nothing short of spectacular. The visual effects are both technically and artistically impressive, creating a fully immersive experience in this post-apocalyptic world. The opening act, especially the first 45 minutes, is solid and features excellent visual storytelling. The lush landscapes, intricate ape society, and overall attention to detail are remarkable. The CGI, which brings the apes to life, is top-notch and seamlessly integrates with the live-action elements.

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The film also introduces a new protagonist, Noa, portrayed by Owen Teague. Noa’s journey from a diffident character to a confident leader is well-executed and adds an interesting dimension to the narrative. His character’s evolution is one of the film’s highlights, and Teague’s performance is commendable. The film’s exploration of themes like power dynamics, societal structure, and moral dilemmas adds depth to the story, making it more than just a visual spectacle.

However, despite these strengths, “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” struggles with several issues. The most significant problem is the lack of compelling characters. Caesar, the protagonist of the previous trilogy, was a remarkable character whose emotional journey was central to the films’ success. Unfortunately, “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” does not have any characters as captivating as Caesar. The main antagonist, a cult-like warlord obsessed with human history, has the potential to be a fascinating character. However, he is underdeveloped and lacks the complexity and motivations that made Koba such a memorable villain in the previous films.

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The pacing of the film is also problematic. After a strong opening act, the film loses momentum. Some scenes drag on, while crucial character moments feel rushed. There is a significant friction between two major characters that does not feel earned. They come to an understanding, only to be at odds again a few scenes later, making their dynamic feel incomplete and poorly developed. It seems like entire scenes were cut, leaving the narrative disjointed.

The music score, which played a crucial role in setting the tone for the previous films, is disappointing in “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes.” The score is generic and forgettable, lacking the emotional impact of Caesar’s theme. This is particularly disheartening because the music in the previous trilogy was so integral to the storytelling.

The film’s runtime of 2 hours and 20 minutes feels unnecessarily long. While some scenes are indeed lengthy, they do not contribute significantly to the overall narrative. A tighter edit could have improved the pacing and made the film more engaging. The film’s action sequences are competent but not particularly thrilling. The most exciting action scene, a cornfield chase, is vaguely inspired by the original 1968 film but lacks the intensity and excitement of the previous trilogy’s action set pieces.

The film’s ending, while setting the stage for future installments, feels more like a TV finale than a satisfying conclusion to a cinematic experience. It hints at the possibility of another trilogy but fails to deliver the emotional and narrative closure that made the previous films so compelling. The ending introduces the concept of human survivors, which could have been an interesting twist, but it does not feel fully integrated into the story.

Despite these criticisms, “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” is not a terrible film. It has moments of brilliance, particularly in its visual storytelling and the evolution of Noa’s character. The film’s exploration of themes like power, societal structure, and moral dilemmas adds depth to the narrative. However, it falls short of the previous trilogy’s emotional engagement and character development.

One of the most significant missed opportunities in “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” is the handling of Caesar’s legacy. The film attempts to explore how Caesar’s teachings have influenced ape society generations later. While this is an intriguing premise, it is not fleshed out enough. The film touches on the idea of Caesar as a mythic figure, but it does not delve deeply into how his legacy shapes the characters and their actions. This lack of depth makes the film feel like a lesser retread of the same ideas and themes from the previous trilogy.

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The female lead, Mae, lacks depth and complexity. She is portrayed as inherently selfish throughout the film, even going so far as to use Noa to achieve her goals. Her character’s motivations are unclear, and her emotional arc feels underdeveloped. This is particularly disappointing because the previous films featured strong, well-written female characters.

The film’s treatment of human characters is also lacking. Unlike the previous trilogy, which presented human nature as both inherently selfish and inherently altruistic, “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” fails to present human characters of much substance. The human protagonists are not as compelling or well-developed, making it difficult to invest in their struggles and conflicts.

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In conclusion, “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” is a visually stunning film with impressive special effects and a compelling protagonist in Noa. However, it falls short of the previous trilogy’s emotional depth, character development, and narrative complexity. The film’s pacing, underdeveloped characters, and lackluster music score detract from the overall experience. While it is not a terrible film, it is not the worthy successor to the previous trilogy that I had hoped for. Fans of the franchise may still find elements to enjoy, but “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” ultimately feels like a missed opportunity to build on the legacy of Caesar and the previous films.

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