(director: Wes Ball; screenwriters: Josh Friedman/based on characters created by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Patrick Aison; cast: Owen Teague (Noa), Freya Allan (Mae/Nova), Kevin Durand (Proximus Caesar), Peter Macon (Raka), William H. Macy (Trevathan), Travis Jeffery (Anaya), Lydia Peckham (Soona), Neil Sandilands (Koro), Eka Darville (Sylva); Runtime: 145; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Wes Ball, Joe Hartwick, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Jason Reed; Twentieth Century Fox; 2024)

“For viewers who can’t get enough shots of apes riding horses.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The original 1968 film starred Charlton Heston discovering his ape ancestors in the year 3978. It was based on the French author Pierre Boulle’s 1963 sci-fi novel, that was a satire on power. “Kingdom” is the reboot prequel to the original, which rips into religions that are power hungry.

It’s a contrived story told in three acts about the enlightened but crazed despotic ape leader Proximus Caesar (Kevin Durand, replacing Andy Serkis in the role of Caesar) and his ruthless efforts to maintain control of the world as humans have regressed to primitives about 200 years after the original Caesar was discovered and his teachings of harmony have been discarded. The new Caesar is a cruel leader who rules from his kingdom in a coastal encampment that’s nearby a sealed tomb, which might hold the keys to finding the ultimate secret power to rule the world if opened. Proximus is tutored in human history by the human Trevathan (William H. Macy).

It’s richly filmed with beautiful scenic photography, has fine special effects, the acting is not bad, it’s well crafted, and it has both likeable characters you can relate to and bad apes to hiss at.

The coming-of-age tale is told from the POV of the young and inexperienced ape Noa (Owen Teague) from the Eagle Clan, who is out to avenge the death of his father and members of his clan kidnapped and murdered by a fierce ape clan sent to wipe out their peaceful tribe by Proximus.

Noa heads to see Proximus in his kingdom. He’s accompanied on his journey by the gentle, wise and compassionate orangutan Raka (Peter Macon) and the rare human who can talk, Nova, whose real name is Mae (Freya Allen). Raka is still a believer in Caesar’s call for a peaceful world.

Director Wes Ball (“The Maze Runner”/”The Maze Runner: The Death Cure”) and writer Josh Friedman go ape shit over this big budget film’s CGIs, but the revenge film’s narrative is superficial, its dialog is clunky, and its story never moved me emotionally.

Though the overlong film doesn’t suck, especially for viewers who can’t get enough shots of apes riding horses. But it can’t compare with the original.

REVIEWED ON 5/11/2024  GRADE: C+