We are stronger together.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is both a sequel and a prequel, stemming from the Caesar trilogy that came before it, so director Wes Ball’s North Star meant ensuring the film stood on its own.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is both a sequel and a prequel, stemming from the Caesar trilogy that came before it, so director Wes Ball’s North Star meant ensuring the film stood on its own.

“It’s its own story, its own adventure, but it still, somehow, belongs in this universe of great movies. That was the main thing,” Ball told Blavity’s Shadow and Act ahead of the movie’s premiere.

Despite its out-of-this-world technology, using innovative special effects to bring the apes to life through performance capture technology versus having actors wear ape suits, the messaging in Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes remains on-brand for the franchise people love and adore.

“These movies always kind of work on a level like, they’re small stories on a big canvas,” Ball said. “And so finding that balance between all the big spectacle and the fun stuff, but at its heart, are these really interesting human stories, even though they’re apes, we see ourselves in them. That reality of performance and subtext and interesting questions that are raised, to me, are the core of these movies and why they work so well.”

He continued, “And somehow, because of these incredible visual effects, a scene that would otherwise be fine is just elevated when it’s apes talking to each other; you believe these things are real, and it’s fascinating.”

Throughout the film, fans continue to see messages about strength in numbers and what happens when power is abused, especially regarding Proximus Caesar.

“For Proximus, it’s something that we don’t fully realize outside of the narrative that we’re presented is just the intense pressure that he’s feeling in order to achieve this goal of attaining this information that they need to get before the humans get,” actor Kevin Durand explained. “Because, if that doesn’t happen, then chances are, they’re going to end up back in cages, so he went about it — his leadership and authority, he used in a way that was like by any means necessary. To me, that doesn’t seem like how things should be dealt with in life, but Proxy was under the gun, so he did what he felt he had to do.”

On the contrary, Raka, the only orangutan, provides fresh air in the film with his wisdom and gems shared with Noa (Owen Teague), which is the complete opposite of Proximus Caesar’s approach to leadership.

“I think his lesson was to expose Noa to the world and letting them know that your myopic worldview is not the world,” Peter Macon, who portrays Raka, said. “We need to expand your consciousness, expand your understanding that things are happening around you, outside of your worldview and I feel like his mission is to use it.”

“He’s a bit of an archaeologist that way,” Macon added. “And also a bit of a nutty professor and he’s happy to have a young sort of protege or someone to explain and help grow their consciousness. His whole sort of reason for being is to understand what it means to be in this Bronze Age, not with just technology, but with the Bronze Age of consciousness and the growing of apes. It’s vital to him that apes understand that the first elder, Caesar, his life’s mission was ‘Apes shall not kill apes; together we are strong. Apes and humans live side by side as opposed.’ And it’s so important to maintain those values.”

At the film’s center is the story between Noa and Nova (Freya Allen) and learning to trust and navigate a space around the enemy as two different beings, ape and man.

“I think they’re both taught that the other one is something to be shunned and feared and avoided… something dangerous and bad,” actor Owen Teague shared.

“Throughout the movie, they’re constantly having to reevaluate that thinking and those teachings,” he continued. “I’m not exactly sure what Nova has heard about apes, because we never hear about it in the film, but in Noa’s case, humans are pests. They’re unintelligent… they’re like rats, and so he comes at them with a lot of animosity and is kind of slow to accept the fact that maybe there’s more there. The beauty of their relationship is that they recognize each other in themselves.”

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is in theaters now.