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I can't think of many long-running movie series that remain as fresh and even thrilling as the "Planet of the Apes" movies do. Still.

Depending on how you count them, "Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes" is the 10th in the series, but it finds new stories to tell in the ongoing saga of apes taking control of the world from the humans who screwed it up. "Kingdom" takes place "many generations later" than the most recent "Apes" movies, in a world where warring communities of creatures are picking off one another in the same way previous "Apes" films have shown humans destroying one another (the apes believe humans may be extinct).

Daredevil Noa (Owen Teague), whose community was massacred, is bent on vengeance, but counsel from wise Raka (raised-in-Minnesota actor Peter Macon) and others convinces him to play it cool. He falls in with a powerful band of apes who force him to help them break into a vault, the sought-after contents of which the movie also keeps secret: A bomb? Society's great books? Even nastier Drake diss tracks?

Like the last several "Apes" movies, "Kingdom" was created with dazzling motion-capture technology, which has continued to improve.

It takes just a couple minutes to be immersed completely in the world of the movie. It's utterly believable, offering a couple of emotional entry points: Noa's grief for his lost family and friends is easy to relate to but so is the idea of a not-too-distant time when creatures (in the case of the movie, humans and hairier primates) could co-exist, despite competing worldviews.

Covered with orange hair that makes him look like a cousin of Chewbacca, Raka is a wonderful new character, given gravitas and dignity by Macon. In a movie that doesn't have tons of humor, Raka also lightens the mood with wry observations such as, when an ape plummets to the ground from a tree, "Apes, falling from the sky. Hmmm."

"Kingdom" also contains a couple of big emotional scenes that feel like they could fall apart with hokey dialogue but, instead, director Wes Ball just trusts the actors' eyes to tell us everything we need to know.

Ball also puts together a handful of suspenseful action scenes, which are rousing not just because of the allegiance-shifting and the surprise-attacking that happens on screen but because, on some level, we know that this is the kind of storytelling only the movies can do.

After a brief prologue that nods to the character of Caesar, the leader who drove previous "Apes" films, "Kingdom" is an entirely new story. Parts of it will hit differently if you've seen its predecessors but you could also make this your first "Apes" movie without missing a beat.

I recommend doing just that. In a summer with the potential for a bunch of action hits, it's a great way to get things started.

'Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes'

***½ out of 4 stars

Rated: PG-13 for violence.

Where: In theaters.