What to know before watching Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes

Brush up on the whole ape-scapade so far, from Rise to Kingdom

Noa in Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes
Owen Teague is the human behind Noa in Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes. (20th Century Studios)

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes continues a story that originally began in 2011 and was itself based on a film from 1968 which was inspired by a book released in 1963.

Ever since French author Pierre Boulle first transported readers to a world where apes were the dominant species and humans were a savage second, audiences have been fascinated with the Planet of the Apes. This fascination only intensified with the release of 1968’s Charlton Heston-fronted film adaptation, a movie that kick-started a franchise that spawned four direct sequels and a TV series.

Macabre visionary Tim Burton tried his hand at a reboot with Mark Wahlberg in 2001. However, it wasn’t until 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes that the series got a remake that truly rewarded the die-hard fanbase these damn dirty apes had spent years accumulating.

Read more: Everything we know about Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes

Wondering how we got here? With Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes finally in cinemas and plenty of monkey business to catch up on, here’s a quick recap of the new Planet of the Apes franchise so far…

James Franco in Rise of the Planet of the Apes alongside as Caesar
James Franco starred in Rise of the Planet of the Apes opposite Andy Serkis as Caesar. (Alamy)

Directed by Rupert Wyatt, Rise of the Planet of the Apes set a new course for an Ape-led film trajectory that has led us all the way to 2024’s Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes. Along the way, the franchise has broken new ground in the world of motion capture technology, thanks largely to its series star Andy Serkis.

A prequel, Rise introduces us to Will (James Franco), a pharmaceutical scientist who is trying to develop breakthroughs in Alzheimer's treatment by testing experimental new drugs on laboratory monkeys.

Will finds particular success testing a new drug on Caesar (Andy Serkis) but while the new treatment helps humans, it also dramatically boosts the cognitive functions of apes, making Caesar smarter and more aware of his surroundings.

Apes standing on cars on a bridge in a scene from Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Rise of the Planet of the Apes culminated in a huge action scene atop Golden Gate Bridge. (Alamy)

When limitations from the drug are discovered, Will creates a more powerful air-born version that has unwanted and deadly viral side effects.

The virus is accidentally released onto the population just as Caesar infects his fellow apes with the drugs that improve their mental strength, setting the scene for the decline of man and the rise of apes as the dominant species.

Jason Clarke standing with apes in a scene from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Jason Clarke’s Malcolm saw himself forging an unlikely alliance with apes in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. (Alamy)

Released in 2014, Cloverfield filmmaker Matt Reeves took the reins for the second film in the Apes reboot franchise, picking up the story a decade later.

Here, we find Caesar trying to live a peaceful life along with his genetically enhanced colony in an area of San Francisco forest. In the years that have passed since the first film, the viral outbreak has become known as the Simian Flu and wiped out large swathes of the population, leaving humanity on the brink of survival.

When the apes cross paths with a group of humans looking for a peaceful way to help their own kind survive, Caesar goes against the will of his clan and offers to assist them restore power by reviving a discussed hydraulic water dam.

Koba in a scene from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Toby Kebble’s Koba was a menacing presence ins Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. (Alamy)

The most vocally against this decision is Koba (Toby Kebbell), a rival ape who tries to scupper Caesar’s plans to help human leader Malcolm (Jason Clarke) while trying to take over as leader of the Ape clan.

Meanwhile, ex-military human Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) betrays the humans and orchestrates a secret attack on the ape population just as Caesar is forced to face off against Koba.

By the time the credits roll, Caesar has managed to maintain his position as leader after defeating Koba - but the relationship between apes and humans is at breaking point and war is imminent.

Caesar in an icy landscape in a scene from War For The Planet of the Apes
War For The Planet of the Apes saw Caesar on the back foot, fighting a human militia. (Alamy)

Reeves returned to helm trilogy-capper War for the Planet of the Apes in 2017, a film which sees Caesar in battle mode as the apes engage in an all-out war with the humans.

While Caesar tries to lead the ape resistance in a way that is more honourable than his oppressive defeated rival Koba, a new human threat emerges in the form of the Colonel (Woody Harrelson).

The Colonel informs Caesar that the Simian Flu has evolved to make humans mute and more savage. To stem its spread, the Colonel has started killing those infected but this route has left him as an outcast from the remaining humans.

Woody Harrelson in a scene from War for the Planet of the Apes
Woody Harrelson led an army against the apes. (Alamy)

As tensions between the humans and the apes intensify, the military starts organising an attack assisted by ape-aids known as Donkeys. Meanwhile, Caesar is taken hostage by the humans but eventually escapes and discovers that the Colonel has fallen victim to the Simian Flu, eventually killing himself.

While trying to escape the human military facility, Caesar is wounded and soon dies of his injuries — but not before leading his clan and his son Cornelius (Devyn Dalton) to safety, ensuring that his legacy will live on.

Noa and Dar in Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes
Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes picks up the story 300 years later. (20th Century Studios).

Director of the Maze Runner trilogy, Wes Ball, takes over directing duties from Reeves on Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes. The fourth instalment of the rebooted franchise is set 300 years after the events of the previous film and finds apes as Earth’s thriving dominant species.

While the remaining human population live like savages in a feral state, a new ape hero discovers Caesar’s story — a legacy that appears to have been purposefully buried by a new leader known as Proximus Caesar (Kevin Durand).

According to the movie’s official synopsis, “when the ape king Proximus Caesar, armed with weapons forged from lost human technologies, perverts Caesar's teachings to enslave other clans, the chimpanzee hunter Noa embarks on a harrowing journey alongside a human girl named Mae to determine the future for apes and humans alike.”

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is in UK cinemas and IMAX now.