I was skittish about Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The 2001 remake was just plain bad and there were elements of the trailers for this new movie that didn’t make me feel like this was going to be a good movie. It was a pleasant surprise to find that this Apes is a fairly smart, and quite good popcorn movie.

The plot is pretty basic. Scientist James Franco has invented a cure for Alzheimer’s. However, testing on chimp has gone a bit haywire and the program ends up shut down. He ends up with a baby chimp at home who has some of the magic formula in his bloodstream. He’s also got a father at home who has Alzheimer’s. The chimp exhibits amazing learning ability so he chances giving his father the drug. Complications, of course, arise and after Caesar the chimp has a run in with some neighbors, he’s off to animal control. There are a crazy number of chimps at animal control in San Francisco and Caesar doesn’t like how he, or his fellow chimps, are treated. So, being the smart  chimp, he plans a revolt.

The movie has a great emotional core. The bond between Franco and his dad, played by John Lithgow, is great. He wants nothing more than to cure his dad. He also forms a tight relationship with Ceasar and tries his best to get the chimp back from animal control, but he’s blocked at every turn. Ceasar is quite something too. The CGI work on his face to convey emotions is incredible. The story the writers crafted for Ceasar and the chimps was excellent. They were cast as the abused group looking to get free. And, of course, once they were smarted up and organized they set about getting what they wanted.

Setting up Caesar as they did gave this film a great emotional depth, even as big monkey battles raged on through the streets of San Francisco and ultimately on the Golden Gate Bridge. Again, the CGI work in these battles was quite outstanding (and I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise since the affects are from the folks that did Avatar.

The end of the move does set up a potential sequel too. If it can be as good as this film, I’d definitely see it.