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  • Author and pop culture historian Glenn Greenberg (Spectacular Spider-Man, Rampaging Hulk, Star Trek: Untold Voyages, etc.) returns with his review of KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
  • Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (2024) Runtime: 2h 25 Minutes
  • Director: Wes Ball
  • Writer: Josh Friedman
  • Cast: Freya Allan, Lydia Pekham, Owen Teague, Kevin Durand, Dichen Lachman, Sara Wiseman, Peter Macon, Eka Darville 


I’ll end the suspense right at the top: Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is not the best movie in 20th Century Fox’s long-running Apes franchise. That distinction still belongs to the original 1968 film starring Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, and Linda Harrison, directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and written by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling—a landmark, classic, thoroughly enjoyable work that still holds up remarkably well today.

Of the 10 movies that comprise the Apes series to date—including four sequels to the original, Tim Burton’s ill-fated 2001 remake, and a complete restart that began with 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, continued with 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and seemingly concluded with 2017’s War for the Planet of the ApesKingdom sits squarely in the middle, though on a technical level, it rises to the top of the heap. It’s a lush, beautiful-looking film that takes a little while to get rolling, but once it does, it becomes an intriguing adventure with captivating characters and a potent and timely look at how doctrine passed down through the ages can be both preserved and perverted.

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Time Jump

Directed by Wes Ball and written by Josh Friedman, Kingdom begins with the funeral of Caesar (played by Andy Serkis via motion capture), the wise and compassionate chimp who led the apes to dominance on Earth in the previous three movies . It then jumps ahead many generations to focus on a community of chimps calling themselves Eagle Clan, named to reflect how they raise and train eagles to help them hunt for food and protect their territory. Amongst this clan is young Noa (Owen Teague), his female mate Soona (Lydia Peckham) and his friend Anaya (Travis Jeffery), who are out together searching for eagle eggs when they discover a possible incursion on their land.

The chimps have reason to believe that the intruder may be from the species they refer to as “echoes”—none other than humans, who by this point have devolved into mute, primitive savages. Hunting for an additional egg on his own one night, Noa makes another discovery: A troop of aggressive, horseback-riding warrior apes led by Sylva (Eka Darville), a gorilla commander armed with an electrically-charged staff. The warriors attack the Eagle Clan community—“For Caesar!” Sylva declares—and kill many of the chimps, including Noa’s father, and kidnap the survivors.

Left for dead by Sylva, Noa revives and sets out to find and rescue the survivors of his village, who include Soona, Anaya, and his now-widowed mother. Along the way, he encounters an aging orangutan named Raka (Peter Macon), who presents himself as a true adherent to the philosophies and principles of the now-almost-mythical Caesar, unlike the brutal army who just committed a massacre in his name. Raka decides to accompany Noa on his quest and together they find and take in the human that Noa had glimpsed previously: a young woman they name Nova (Freya Allan), about whom the two apes have much to learn.



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Ancient Secrets, Revelations, and Callbacks

Peter Macon as Raka. 20th Century Studios


As the unlikely trio continue the journey, ancient secrets are uncovered and startling revelations are made, some of them courtesy of a character they meet named Trevathan (William H. Macy). It all leads to a confrontation with the ruler of the conqueror apes, a shrewd and ambitious bonobo named Proximus (Kevin Durand), who declares himself the rightful spiritual heir to Caesar and the unifier of all apekind.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes does a masterful job of world-building, letting the audience in on the ape society and how it functions, with numerous original and clever ideas in the mix—the unique relationship between Noa’s clan and the eagles being just one of them. More importantly, the movie focuses on building the main characters so you get to know, understand, and care about them early on, and when certain twists occur—involving one character in particular—they have real impact.

The performances by the actors are strong across the board, with CGI bringing the ape characters to life brilliantly and displaying body language, facial expressions, and subtle mannerisms that are in turn funny, charming, and dramatic, all helping to add dimension and complexity. The locales shown throughout the film are varied and always interesting.

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20th Century Studios


Longtime fans of the franchise will undoubtedly notice the major callbacks to the original 1968 movie, both visually and musically, though Kingdom manages to avoid descending into nostalgia. It instead serves as a satisfying follow-up to the “Caesar trilogy” that revived and revitalized the series, tying into it directly, continuing and expanding upon it logically, and providing a new beginning with new characters, new concepts, and new situations.

Given the movie’s opening-weekend box-office performance—an estimated $56.5 million in domestic ticket sales and $72.5 million internationally as of this writing—it’s a safe bet that we’ll be getting another new installment before too long. To paraphrase newsman Kent Brockman of The Simpsons—a show that’s no stranger to referencing Planet of the Apes—I for one welcome our new simian overlords.








GLENN GREENBERG is an award-winning editor, journalist, pop-culture historian, and author with an MFA in Creative Writing. His work spans both fiction and nonfiction and has been published by a variety of top companies including Simon & Schuster, Time Inc., NBC Universal, A360, Marvel Comics, DC Comics, IDW Publishing, TwoMorrows Publishing, and Scholastic Inc.



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