In reference to the scale of the big budget films of the summer, it doesn't compare, but where it lacks in scale, it more than makes up for with heart and story, and that, to me, is what movie making is all about.
I was about ten minutes late, but the film immediately captivated me with the very thing that I thought would have been typical about it: the CG. But it was the use of CG that really brought this film forward. Weta Digital is still doing it big, and since King Kong, they have lost none of their steam and stride. In a lot of cases, you could tell it was CG, because of the smaller scale of the apes in comparison to Kong, but there were times where it wasn't so obvious. But in essence, it worked extremely well. And Weta's ability to capture emotion with an Ape was truly astounding. I was afraid that giving an Ape more human qualities and expressions would have been over-the-top and, well, just plain stupid, but I was completely wrong. While watching, I wasn't really thinking, "Oh look at the CG ape thingie leaping through trees and hollering at people and other things", which is what I typically say (in annoyance) to films that feature apes anyway. No, I was able to connect with Caesar as a character, which I don't normally do with animals in film. But then again, these weren't real apes, so that's probably why it worked for me.
I also love the story as well, particularly the science involved. The director/writers didn't have it to where Caesar's development was just some random evolutionary happenstance, but they found a way to bring it about in a very believable way that aided the heart of the story rather than being separate from all the other story elements. This film was paced very well, very evenly. So, when the time came for the conflict to reach it's peak, it was allowed to do just that, and the film delivered with every shot of the last sequence. And believe it or not, because of the nature and heart of the story, it didn't feel tragic in anyway, and I don't think that was the goal of this film anyway. In the end, I found myself sympathizing with Caesar's cause, which is interesting, because with the previous films, the audience is more prone to sympathize with the human side of things...Or perhaps I just wanted to see how the world was conquered by a bunch of apes. That may have had something to do with it as well.
Also, big ups to Patrick Doyle for the score. I was somewhat disappointed in the score he provided for Thor, but he delivered with this movie, and I think that, if he came with anything less, the film would not have worked musically. I like that he didn't go the traditional route, giving us the typical, quirky, junglified score that you find with most movies involving primates. Though he provided music containing those elements, he found a good balance between the Goldsmith style of the original and the quasi-bombast of the contemporary score.
The acting was actually the weakest thing about this movie, which is a testament to how strong the film actually was, because the acting throughout was quite good (if that makes any sense). However, there were those moments that just struck me as over-the-top or not believable enough. And in saying this, I'm referencing, moreso, the performance of Draco...I mean, Tom Felton. I say this because I felt that, in pretty much the entire film, I was watching Draco Malfoy, or some character that mirrored his "walking anus" qualities. That's not to say it was baaaaad, but at times, it was over-the-top, which caused small, spontaneous breaks in the believability of the film. It just felt like, "This is what happend to Draco Malfoy after Voldemort died." And James Franko, who I'm not a big fan of as an actor, did quite well. Although, my only complaint is toward his scientific monologues/explanations throughout the film, which lacked a refined luster and passion that you would think to hear with anyone involved in the science community. He sounded more like a guy trying to be scientific, or an actor reading lines, rather than an actual scientist.
Reminiscent of J.J. Abrams' Star Trek, this film was a breath of fresh air, and possibly the best film of the 2011 summer season. In reference to the scale of the big budget films of the summer, it doesn't compare, but where it lacks in scale, it more than makes up for with heart and story, and that, to me, is what movie making is all about. Like Star Trek and Batman Begins, Hollywood has, in my opinion, a successful reboot on their hands, and I think this is the start, or reboot rather, of a successful film franchise, and I look forward to seeing more in the future.