Film Review of the Week


Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes (12A)

Review: Throughout the various iterations of the Planet Of The Apes saga, launched by the bombastic 1968 film starring Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowall, ruling primates have largely abided by one tenet: “ape not kill ape”. Lessons of the past are spattered with freshly spilt blood in a visually spectacular franchise revival set many generations after grief-stricken apes have bade tearful farewell to their leader, Caesar, brandishing torches around a funeral pyre. The history of hubristic humankind’s downfall has been lost to the ravages of time in Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes, the opening salvo of a new trilogy helmed by Wes Ball, director of The Maze Runner pictures.

Motion-captured performances realise most characters on screen and impressive technological muscle visibly strains at the sinews in ambitious action sequences set around water. Scriptwriter Josh Friedman follows the same path as the Avatar sequels, orchestrating a simplistic but compelling coming-of-age story that tests familial bonds and forces reluctant heroes to accept their destinies. He nods reverentially to previous films including an explicit verbal reference to Heston’s off-quoted line (“Take your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape!”) in a post-apocalyptic wilderness where homo sapiens languish at the bottom of the ecological pecking order, rendered mute and supposedly unintelligent by a genetically engineered virus intended as a cure for Alzheimer’s.

Adolescent chimpanzee Noa (Owen Teague) has been raised in the Eagle Clan by parents Koro (Neil Sandilands) and Dar (Sara Wiseman). The demanding patriarch is the reigning Master Of Birds, who works at the dizzy heights of an abandoned electricity pylon, nurturing convocations of eagles that are individually paired with adults in the tribe. Noa and best friends Soona (Lydia Peckham) and Anaya (Travis Jeffery) are poised to traverse the rubicon to adulthood and bond with eagle eggs carefully stolen from nests in dilapidated skyscrapers.

One reckless act leads warmongering gorilla Sylva (Eka Darville) and his sadistic soldiers to the Eagle Clan village. Noa evades capture and embarks on a noble quest to reunite his kidnapped kin. In the disintegrating remains of an airport, Noa encounters orangutan Raka (Peter Macon), last surviving member of the Order of Caesar. Simian travelling companions acquire an echo – a feral human christened Nova (Freya Allan) – en route to the coastal fortress of Bonobo tyrant Proximus Caesar (Kevin Durand), who has corrupted Caesar’s teachings to justify his militaristic ambitions.

Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes invests a decent chunk of its 145-minute running time illustrating the ties that bind the Eagle Clan to harness the raw emotion behind the special effects wizardry, beginning with a thrilling sequence closely aligned to director Ball’s previous credits. The opening stretch almost becomes a trudge but pacing steadily cranks up, building to a pulse-quickening crescendo that teases future conflict and betrayal. Teague’s performance deftly plucks heartstrings, supplanting self-doubt and wide-eyed innocence with glowering defiance as a prodigal son takes up the mantle and forcefully resuscitates the franchise. For now, vital signs are promising.

Find Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes in the cinemas