Is the film plausible? Kinda sorta, say experts.
20th Century Fox
There's only about 1.2 percent of genetic difference between human beings and chimpanzees. It's not much of a separation from our evolutionary relatives—though, as with any relatives, we cherish a fair amount of distance.
But what if the gap closes? The Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which opens today, taps into the fear that our primate kin could transform into angry biological doppelgangers. An origin of species story, the film is a prequel to the 1968 classic—and 2001 re-make—that portrayed modern man traveling through space and time to find the ultimate evolutionary uncanny scenario. Rise depicts scientist Will Rodman, played by James Franco, performing Alzheimer’s research on apes at a pharmaceutical company. In doing so, he produces Caesar, a chimpanzee with cognitive powers that rival our own.
Director Rupert Wyatt sets the movie in the present day, inviting viewers to imagine the imminent reality of his premise. Aspects of the film seem pretty believable. We have been enhancing both animals and humans for years, through everything from selective breeding—which brought us "designer dogs" like the Puggle—to the wakefulness drug, Provigil. And scientists have taught apes to communicate using sign language, just as Ceasar does.