Bold Storytelling At War with Conventional Action in "Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes"

Title: Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes
Director: Wes Ball
Studio: 20th Century Studios

Genre(s): Action
Rated: PG-13 (For intense sequences of sci-fi violence/action)

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Considering that the 'Planets of Apes' franchise has subtly (and not so subtly) tackled issues of colonialism, racism, and corporate negligence, it was only a matter of time before religion would be tackled. For "Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes" takes place centuries after Caesar has died, and the world has changed. We see a world where the apes are becoming the dominant species and humans are almost nowhere to be found. They have even built their own village with laws and customs. One of the apes - Noah - even shares some of the same anxieties and issues a human would face. 

His life is turned upside down when his village is attacked by a tribal group of apes that capture the apes, burn down the tents, and cause the livestock. All "for Caesar." This group of apes has taken the teachings of Caesar - "apes together strong" - and is using it as a rallying cry to conquer and destroy. In all of this, Noah manages to escape the chaos and vows to bring his family home. Turns out Noah may have been a bit in the dark himself. He never heard of Caesar before, and a chance encounter with an orangutan named Raka, who has protected the teachings of the world, clues him in on who Caesar was.

He tells him about how Caesar made the laws of the land, like "ape shall not kill ape" (though as we saw in previous films there was some wiggle room on that one), and talks about how Caesar loved and had respect for the human creatures that apes now treat as savages. Raka is disgusted that there are apes out there who would use his teachings as a way to justify hate and violence. For those who are reading this and thinking "that sounds a little on the nose" you would be correct: it IS a little on the nose! Yet 'Planet of the Apes' has never been afraid to tackle real-world issues in this series (and the previous one as well).

Considering how teachings of religious figures in the past are being bastardized to raise money, justify hate, and even inspire killing, it makes sense that "Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes" would tackle it. What is disappointing is that the movie has a conventional third act that goes on a little too long and seems to forget the heavy themes that opened the story. It's as if the filmmakers had a much more gripping story they wanted to tell, and the executives who were providing the money were too afraid to see it to its logical conclusion. If you think I'm about to end this on a negative note, you would be mistaken.

Not only is the idea at the beginning solid, but the ending is also exciting to watch thanks to breathtaking action and visual effects that are on par with the 'Avatar' movies. To be clear: while the endgame for "Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes" is disappointing, it's not bad. It's clear to me that this should have been two movies, where the first would set up the new world of the apes we lived in so the second movie could focus more on the conflict between the two nations. In the end, "Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes" is still a much smarter franchise than most other franchises, but warning signs are popping up, and the filmmakers need to be careful not to head too far down the path of conventional action, or they will destroy what made these films great (much like the humans in the 'Planet of the Apes' films).