Monday, August 8, 2011

How real is Rise of the Planet of the Apes?

How real is Rise of the Planet of the Apes?
That’s the question that great ape advocates hope audiences will ask themselves as they walk out of movie theaters and talk about how good the movie is. (And it is good. Very, very good!)

Q. Are those real apes in the movie?

No. Those apes are humans, whose performances are captured by an innovation called computer-generated imagery, or CGI. To see how technology captured actor Andy Serkis' fantastic performance as Caesar, see this clip. Producer Rupert Wyatt did not want to use real chimpanzees in the movie. As he told Peter Singer, there were practical reasons for not using animals, but he also understood the ethical issue. "There are things I didn't want to be involved in" he told Singer. "To get apes to do anything you want them to do, you have to dominate them; you have to manipulate them in performing. That's exploitive."

Q. Do companies really experiment on chimpanzees?
Yes. The U.S. is the only country in the world (besides Gabon) that allows bioinvasive research on chimpanzees. In fact, not only does the government permit experiments, the federal government owns many hundreds of chimpanzees for the sole purpose of conducting research on them. For more information, see Release & Restitution for Chimpanzees in U.S. Laboratories.  
Q. Are sanctuaries as bad as the one Caesar is put into?
Absolutely not, not the accredited ones. I wish everyone could see what accredited U.S. and Canadian sanctuaries are really like. The chimpanzees and orangutans are as healthy as is possible under captive conditions. Of course, many of the animals are in the sanctuary because they were previously living in horrible conditions – in entertainment, as pets, or in research – but the sanctuaries give them an opportunity to recover. See the links to sanctuaries at Project ChimpCare, or go directly to the website of my favorite sanctuary, Center for Great Apes.

How do you tell if a sanctuary is legit? Here are some hints: If it breeds animals, separates youngsters from their mothers, and/or takes young animals on tour to book signings or TV shows, it is not a real sanctuary.
To read more about chimpanzee experimentation AND sanctuaries, I highly recommend a new book, The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary: A True Story of Resilience and Recovery, by Andrew Westoll. If you are more into fiction (that nevertheless is “primate-accurate”) pick up a copy of UNSAID, a wonderful novel by Neil Abramson.
Q. Do people really keep chimpanzees as pets?
Unfortunately, yes. It is unfortunate for the chimpanzee, for the neighborhood, and ultimately for the owners who cannot really keep a chimpanzee healthy and happy for the 40 or 50 years of his natural life. Animal advocates are trying to stop the practice, for everyone’s sake, but so far Congress is turning a deaf ear. See this report on Senate Bill 1234 by the Humane Society of the United States.

Q. Did Andy Serkis deserve an Academy Award nomination for best actor?

Absolutely. I would argue that Caesar was every bit as good looking as perpetual nominees Brad Pitt and George Clooney, and his acting was just as good (if not better). Seriously, I truly believe that one day the Academy will recognize Andy's amazing work.  

1 comment:

  1. Amazing performances, especially as 'Caesar. But typical overkill as the film entered its later stages. Such films, while entertaining, always go beyond themselves. Americans seem to love the power of violence.