Given how often James Franco’s name has been popping up in the world of entertainment news lately, it’s a wonder that he only has two major features due out in 2011 – this spring’s Medieval comedy Your Highness and Rise of the Apes in November.

The first still from the Planet of the Apes prequel has been unveiled and it’s a pretty basic pic of Franco as Will Rodman, a scientist whose cutting-edge experiments end up dooming humanity (don’t they always in Hollywood).

Here’s a description for Rise of the Apes that’s more official – but still light on the details:

An origin story set in present day San Francisco, where man’s own experiments with genetic engineering lead to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of a war for supremacy.

Andy Serkis is keeping in motion-capture shape – portraying Gollum in The Hobbit by donning a skintight suit as well as dots on his face to portray the CGI ape Caesar in Rise of the Apes. In case you weren’t sure, he’s the simian who develops human-like intelligence and leads a revolt against his human captors, including the cruel owner of a primate sanctuary (Brian Cox) and his son (Tom Felton).

Freida Pinto also costars in the prequel, while Franco’s character reportedly plays a pivotal role in the ensuing war between man and ape. He certainly looks like a shifty character, sitting there with his Bluetooth device on, eying charts of data on his monitor – doesn’t he?

Check out the first image from Rise of the Apes (via JoBlo) below:

Since the apes will be digital creations, and not humans in makeup this time around, Rise of the Apes‘ non-human primate stars will presumably look and move far more realistic than those in any of the previous Apes movies. The prequel has a great cast as well as solid  talent working behind the camera, but it’s probably best to wait for the trailer before you start feeling either too excited or pessimistic about this one.

Rise of the Apes hits theaters on November 23rd, 2011.