Many of James Franco's (127 Hours, Spider-Man, This Is the End) acting roles before this film were cheesy and hard to take seriously. Coming off of the disappointing end to the Spider-Man trilogy, Franco re-establishes himself as a serious actor in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Franco's depiction of Will Rodman stands out as an emotional portrayal of a moral human, which is hard to come by in this franchise. Rupert Wyatt (The Escapist) cleverly sets up two warring parties, often times making the audience question if human actions are good or bad. The film made me cringe and PETA might take issues with the realistic abuse of CGI animals.
The greatest moments of this film occur whenever Caeser walks across the screen. The CGI looks extremely realistic, bringing the audience into the center of the storyline. As a master of performance capture, Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings) once again brings a computer generated image to life. It is impossible to tell that the apes are not real. Clearly, this is not a man dressed as an ape. Overall, the special effects are jaw-dropping and as the franchise continues, the effects keep getting better and better. Although there are only a few action sequences throughout the film, they are perfected and never overdone.
The Bottom Line: While Rise of the Planet of the Apes is not the explosive blockbuster that audiences may have hoped for, it does set the franchise up for successful future installments.