A journey into “The Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes”

Published 2:43 pm Monday, July 1, 2024

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This week at the Tryon Theatre is “The Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” (Ball 2024), a powerful examination of how we define our existence, explored through a compelling science fiction world and narrative. 

This film is the fourth installment in the rebooted “Planet of the Apes” franchise, one that sought to explore the origins of the apes’ ascendency to the top of the food chain and humanity’s relegation to a lower rung. “Kingdom” takes place decades after the last film, depicting a world of splintered tribal societies, the intelligent apes having formed cultures and practices distinct from one another. In this film, humanity has long since lost its footing of dominance over nature, existing now as scattered scavengers, dwarfed in physicality and organization by their ape cousins, a subjugated species. 

While the conflict of the last few films has predominantly focused on the tension between the remnants of humanity and the increasingly powerful apes, this film’s balance of protagonism and antagonism is defined by apes on each side, humans but a supporting role in the story. 

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For any viewer daunted by the concept of catching up on three other films before this one, you needn’t be trepidant. The only necessary foundation for this film is an appreciation of the world’s concept and the understanding of one seminal figure from the earlier films. At the simplest, both the new franchise and the older one are founded upon the conceit of an alternative future, wherein the various species of “apes” (chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, bonobos, etc.) have supplanted humanity as the dominant species on Earth, with humans forced into a subservient and “animalistic” class. 

The character of note from the new franchise is a chimpanzee named Caesar. Caesar was the first of the apes to gain sentience and language and was instrumental in the formation of their early society. In the current film, Caesar now exists as a mythical figure from history, a religious idol of sorts. 

Obviously, “Kingdom,” as with the franchise at large, is a work of science fiction, and as with all science fiction, it requires a certain suspension of disbelief on behalf of the audience. The new series, “Kingdom” included, is as grounded as science fiction can come, given the sensational concept. 

The apes have gained intelligence through an experimental viral gene therapy designed to combat Alheizmer’s, a side effect of which was a simian flu that devastated humanity’s numbers as quickly as the apes’ intelligence grew. Beyond that impractical biology, these films are indebted to realism, telling mature and deep stories of identity and morality with apes. 

The heights of the current CGI technology are at their superlative best in these films, rendering the impeccable motion caption work of the actors into photorealistic apes of all sizes and appearances. 

This new installment is a classical tale, one of loss, camaraderie, and the ever-compelling fight of good vs evil, of “humanity” vs the absence thereof. This film takes itself seriously, building complex and emotionally resonant characters, all interwoven through a thoughtful and compelling plot. 

“The Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” is a tale of triumph and one of compassion and cooperation, a story that reaffirms what we know to the best of society. We hope you will join us for this imaginative and gripping film!