Caesar’s Legacy – Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes Review

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Art of Lily K
| May 15, 2024
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The new Planet of the Apes means a lot to me, especially Caesar, who the great Andy Serkis played. I was fortunate enough to meet the man himself and tell him how much the trilogy meant for me during my time of healing, and I think that’s greatness in itself. So when people say that movies or any kind of media can help a healing journey, I fully support that statement because I know it is true. Given how much these movies mean to me, I was apprehensive when the next installment was announced. Mostly, because it was missing a big element that made the OGs great: Andy Serkis. And when they announced that Matt Reeves wouldn’t return to the director’s chair… even more fear built up. As much as I enjoyed The Maze Runner movies, I didn’t have too much faith in Wes Ball to handle a project like Planet of the Apes. These were very huge shoes to fill in my eyes…

I am so glad I was once again proven wrong. 

That’s right. The abridged version of this review is this: It is a great new start for a new hero, with spectacular visuals, a great story, and amazing characters, but it isn’t as good as the big three was, and that’s okay, too. 

Let me explain it all to you in a longer, more SPOILERY way. Yes, this is your Spoiler warning. 

Noa, Soona and Anaya discover something alarming

The movie opens where War for the Planet of Apes ends. The incredibly heartbreaking funeral of Caesar. Yes, I cried a lot. I am still very upset that they decided to kill off Caesar before he could enjoy true freedom and happiness, but that’s a whole other conversation. As the Apes stand around Caesar, we hear the famous lines: “Apes together strong.” 

After that, the scenery changes and we are many generations after Caesar. That was already a bit of a hard pill to swallow since I hoped that they would go on with the story of an adult Cornelius (the last son of Caesar). But instead, we are introduced to Noa (Owen Teague) and his friends Soona (Lydia Peckham) and Anaya (Travis Jeffery). They are hunting for eagle eggs, not to eat but to raise and bond with them. We are already introduced to a new dynamic and culture that we haven’t seen before. Of course, the idyllic nature of the beginning is quickly disturbed by the appearance of new Apes, burning down Noa’s village, kidnapping his family and friends, and killing his father, leaving him to die among the ashes. What immediately piqued my interest was the fact that they ran around while capturing their own and praising Caesar. I was dumbfounded.

If you haven’t seen the previous three movies (Why? Go and watch it NOW), here’s another important thing about Caesar: he firmly believed that apes should not kill apes. He suffered from the guilt of killing Koba (Toby Kebell) and then Winter (Aleks Paunovic) until the day he died. It was this belief that set him apart from humans, after all. So you can imagine my confusion as amid chaos as apes were killing and taking other apes, I kept hearing Caesar’s name. I was waiting for an explanation. Unfortunately, we didn’t get much. I will mark this as one of the weak points of this film. 

Raka, the great orangutan who carries Caesar’s legacy

As Noa travels to find his clan, he meets an orangutan named Raka (Peter Macon). Raka became my favorite as soon as I saw his necklace. You can see it in the picture above, too. It was the shape of Caesar’s window in Will’s (James Franco) house that later became his symbol throughout all movies and, thankfully, here too. Raka is the last one (I hope not) who tries to spread Caesar’s story and his teachings. How their first leader came to be and all the things he said and lived by and it is honestly one of the most beautiful tributes in any movie I’ve ever seen. The fact Noa didn’t even hear about Caesar before meeting Raka made me very upset nonetheless. 

However, as great as they establish all of that with the introduction of Raka, when we finally get to the main antagonist, Proximus Caesar (Kevin Durand), the reasons for his obsession with their first leader are a bit muddy. I truly think they should have better introduced how Proximus completely misunderstood everything he learned about Caesar. Maybe it was not even misunderstood but turned in its favor, or maybe it was manipulated by someone to do it. But I think a bit more emphasis on all that would have been better as it was an interesting concept to see both sides of the coin. 

Proximus took Caesar’s name to use as his own, but it seems like the only thing he learned about him was what he kept saying: “Apes together strong.” He took that and used it to basically keep other apes as his slaves so he could reach his goal of opening the door of a big bunker and hiding the key to the apes’ next evolution. According to Proximus, of course. That’s where humans come into the picture… *sigh*. Let’s stop avoiding the human in the room. Get it? I changed elephant to human because… never mind, onto the next point. 

Mae

I’m sure Freya Allan is a great actor in other projects, but not this one, unfortunately. I personally hated her character Mae and here’s why-. She is a girl who embodies everything that is wrong with humanity. She causes trouble for Noa from the very beginning of the movie. Stealing, lying, misleading, and playing others are all in her array. She is one of the very few remaining humans who didn’t lose their voice and most of their cognitive functions thanks to the Simian Flu. We do get a scene where we see humans returning to how we were at the beginning of our time and how humans were introduced in the first Planet of the Apes movies. It’s a heartbreaking and beautifully done scene, as Raka even offers to join and help other humans as Caesar would have done it. 

Mae’s main goal from the beginning was to get to Proximus and the bunker, which she knows a lot about, as her mission is to collect something from there. She shamelessly uses Noa for her gain and then nearly commits genocide at the end without a blink of an eye. You see, the virus that turned apes into what we see in the movie was created by humans. And while this virus (ALZ-13) helped apes evolve, it became the Simian Flu. The Simian Flu that wiped out most of the humans. The apes had nothing to do with it, yet it is a point throughout all movies to show how humans are completely blind to this tiny little fact. They just need someone to blame instead of taking responsibility for something they caused. Mae represents this small-minded thinking perfectly, yet again, among others who came before her. She made my blood boil by the end. William H. Macy played the voice of the other side of things, and he put it perfectly: it is the time of apes, and it is because humans tried to play God. 

I would say that Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes does a better job handling its human characters than Rise or Dawn of the Planet of the Apes did. War for the Planet of the Apes was perfect with Woody Harrelson’s Colonel.  

Noa with his mother

Now, let’s move on to the things I REALLY loved about this movie. 

First and foremost, the visuals. I mean, don’t get me wrong: Rise was revolutionary, Dawn came close to perfection, and War was nearly flawless, but Kingdom shows how much further technology came. I didn’t think it was humanly possible, but the CGI at this point is so convincing that I am waiting for Comic Con to announce the cast of Planet of the Apes and see actual apes walking on stage. Seriously… I especially loved the visual depth of War, but Kingdom was a whole new level. 

The characters were all amazing. I loved all the differences not only between Proximus and Caesar but also between Noa and Caesar. Noa has the same determination for others as Caesar always had, but he is not afraid to kill. I can already see he will not follow the teaching: apes don’t kill apes. He zeroed out two apes just in this first movie of the new trilogy, so I can’t wait to see what’s to come next for him. Proximus is what Caesar would have been if he was full of himself and wanted to be celebrated every step of the way. But! Despite his self-absorbed nature, Proximus also wants apes to evolve just like their first leader did. 

Anaya and Soona are great companions next to Noa and interesting characters to discover later on in future movies. Raka, my beloved, I can only hope that his fate is not set in stone, but I guess only time will tell. 

The storytelling was beautifully done. I loved that it wasn’t exposition-heavy, that it laid down the groundwork for more to come, and that it has already established some great themes that I hope they will follow through with. 

But what I loved the most was the respect for Caesar’s movies and, therefore, the story beforehand, and I can’t wait how it will affect the future. 

Soona and Noa reunited

I am glad I was wrong to worry about this movie. I am glad we can still get sequels that justify their existence. And I am glad it is in the Planet of the Apes franchise because these movies honestly deserve all the love and respect in the world. I might be biased, sure, but I don’t care. I want people to actively talk about these movies. I want people to enjoy them because there’s so much to love her. And honestly? The fact these movies never got a single Oscar for AT LEAST the visual achievement is a great big shame…

Andy Serkis should have an Oscar too…

ANYWAY. 

Please watch Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes along with the original trilogy. Easy 8 out of 10. I am hopeful for the future of this franchise again.

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