BAR WAS SET HIGH: Making this edition not worth the monkey cliches. PHOTO COURTESY OF NNPA

It’s hard to fathom who’ll go ape over t his action/sci-fi/drama. Maybe those who don’t know better and slept through the previous “Planet of the Apes” trilogy.

The bar was set very high back in 2011, after” Rise of the Planet of the Apes” became the grandchild of the original 1968 cult classic film. In that $481M blockbuster hit, James Franco played a sensitive chemist and Andy Serkis starred as Caesar, a chimpanzee with humanlike intelligence and emotions. Those traits were due to an experimental, manmade simian virus the chemist created as he searched for an Alzheimer’s cure. “Rise” earned an Oscar nom for Best Achievement in Special Effects for its uncanny depiction of the Hominidae species (apes, gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans).

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” in 2014 and “War for the Planet of the Apes” in 2017 received the same acclaim and even more box office success. The trio had majesty, strong visuals and characters with depth. Dazzling action scenes, compelling performances and innovation. Enough evocative power to leave audiences with a haunting feeling.

An astounding vision, profound writing and originality are missing in this pretender. It’s a shallow knockoff that can’t carry the weight of the legacy it inherited. Screenwriter Josh Freidman has penned a script that’s derivative at best. Too much of the beginning is spent establishing who’s who, yet telling the major clan characters apart is tough. Same coloring, body weight, height, looks, culture… A smart script would have made one thin, one plump, one short, one tall. Anything in the species’ physical realm that could help audiences distinguish them.

Somewhere in the far future, there’s a no man’s land wilderness thick with forests and streams. That’s where the Eagle Clan, a colony of chimpanzees, has settled. Noa (Owen Teague) is the son of the chief. He and the others hold eagles dear and raise them to be hunters. The village is being watched by a wild child. A human, aka an “echo,” who lurks in the shadows. Her name is Mae (Freya Allan, “The Witcher”). Word is, “Echoes only bring trouble.” Meanwhile a hostile group, run by the gorilla king Proximus (Kevin Durand), threatens everyone. A wise orangutang Raka (Peter Macon, TV’s “The Orville”), who believes in the holiness of the legendary Caesar, shields himself from those aggressors.

It’s all a big gamble that doesn’t pan out, well. The woodland settings look generic—and CGI assisted. In the trilogy, the buildings and humans in San Francisco and its Bay Area left haunting memories of civilization gone awry. Now there’s nothing but furry beings, nature and adversaries. The onus is on Noa, his chums, family, mentor and the interloper to intrigue the audience. To pull viewers into the time, place and drama. As written and directed, it’s a task they can’t handle alone. They drop the torch they were given.

What’s on the screen is dull Hollywood mechanizations. Dull as the recent “Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire.” None of the imagery is truly mind boggling. The sets, production design (Daniel T. Dorrance), costumes (Mayes C Rubeo) and art direction are passable. Cinematographer Gyula Pados doesn’t do a bad job capturing what’s on view. It’s more that the action scenes he films, interiors he lights and landscapes he shoots don’t look extraordinary or spectacular.

Wes Ball’s tame direction is a mismatch. Past work, even on the successful “The Maze Runner” series, hasn’t primed his filmmaking well enough for this franchise treasure. Noa and others ride horses, do battle, climb mountains and scale walls. None of it is extremely accomplished or an out-of-this world thrill ride. The direction doesn’t dazzle (James Cameron, Avatar), show pageantry (Peter Jackson, “Lord of the Rings”), create a frenzy (Christopher Nolan, “Oppenheimer”) or paint a stunning picture (Denis Villeneuve, “Dune: Part Two”). The kind of verve that could juice up the movie for its entire two-and-a-half-hour length (editors Dirk Westervelt and Dan Zimmerman). Even though the finale is more engaging than what came before it, it’s still under par. Marred by herds of fake looking apes. It’s an opportunity that never fulfills its chance for greatness.

Durran growls his lines ferociously. Teague sounds innocent enough as circumstances force Noa to grow up quickly. This very important lead char- acter needed an edge. Something that made him more unique than any other protagonist that came before him. He’s a bland hero. The sageness in Rake’s voice is due to the shaman-like persona Macon creates. The odd person out, is Allan. Mae is supposed to be a scruff living in the forest. When she’s thrown a rag so she can cloth herself, presto she’s wearing a perfectly torn tank top that looks like it was bought in H&M. Why? She fit her part on Netflix’s “The Witcher” like a glove. But here she looks out of place. Like a super model who came in from the rain.

Fans of the previous three movies, who’ve been spoiled by their allure, may not be appalled by what they see in “Kingdom.” But they won’t be astounded. They won’t go ape over it.