‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’: John Lithgow on moving sci-fi

Aug. 04, 2011 | 1:42 p.m.
apes1 Rise of the Planet of the Apes: John Lithgow on moving sci fi

Computer-generated character Caesar and James Franco in a scene from "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." (WETA Digital)

An intimate dinner table scene in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” foreshadows how the balance of power between humans and simians is about to change, when an exceptional young chimp named Caesar (Andy Serkis) reminds an aging Alzheimer’s patient named Charles (John Lithgow) how to use a fork.

“It’s an extraordinary moment when a chimp is teaching a human being how to do something basic,” said Lithgow. “There is this tenderness where Caesar is more capable than the old man. And there is a grain of plausibility there.”

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” which opens Friday, is a prequel to the storied science fiction franchise launched in 1968 about a world where hyper-intelligent apes rule over wordless human slaves. In the new film, a scientist named Will  (James Franco) is seeking a cure for the Alzheimer’s disease that is incapacitating his father (Lithgow). While experimenting on apes, Will inadvertently creates a brilliant baby chimp.

“I’ve never watched a ‘Planet of the Apes’ film start to finish,” Lithgow said. “But this script genuinely moved me, it really surprised me. Science fiction works best when it’s fact-based, when it’s got some sort of emotional authenticity. What happens if a drug is created that can jump start a primate brain? It’s a fascinating premise, and it sets in motion this emotional story of our mutual relationship with this ape. You just don’t expect to be touched like this by an ‘Apes’ movie.”

— Rebecca Keegan



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11 Responses to ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’: John Lithgow on moving sci-fi

  1. Brizeycon says:

    I still cant beleive how good those damn apes look….its amazing how far and how fast this tech has developed since I was a kid, I said it on a previous ROTPOTA article and I'll say it again, looking foward to this alot, I struggle to think of any other movie with CG characters that captured so much emotion,

  2. POZitive Attitudes says:

    The premise of this movie is based on HIV/AIDS. A virus that is ok for Chimps but deadly for humans, that's HIV/AIDS. A virus that starts in San Francisco, again HIV/AIDS. a man-made virus, well probably not how HIV/AIDS developed, although some people believe that happened. An airline employee that becomes patient-0 (Zero) or Patient-O (Out of California), again HIV/AIDS. A virus spread through blood, again HIV/AIDS. Casual contact spreads this virus and although that doesn't spread HIV, it was once feared that it would. How none of the reviewers are picking up on this parallel, amazes me. Were they all born yesterday?

    • boooooo says:

      They don't have your peculiar bias, mr Ebola

    • Lynn Reed says:

      A friend and I just finished talking about that and you are right on point..It is exactly that…

    • Andrew says:

      yep, after the final scene, there is no question that the virus in the film is analogous to an extreme form of HIV

    • WIDTAP says:

      The use of a virus as a delivery mechanism for the Alzheimers gene therapy is a key McGuffin in the plot of "Rise". Public awareness of virus pandemics and gene therapy is critical to accepting this McGuffin, but I don't see this as an analogy for HIV/AIDS any more than it is for bird flu or Legionaries disease. The cut scene during the credits and subsequent graphics does depend on knowing the background on the spread of certain pandemics, like HIV/AIDS, as it implies the final consequences based on understanding this history.

      Other than this McGuffin, the story in "Rise", however, has nothing to do with viruses. It is about oppression, vengeance and the rise of a revolution. It is there that most reviewer focus their comments, as well as the tie in with the rest of the Apes movie world.

    • Couturedd says:

      Great insight and perspective. Makes sense. Thoughts on ta sequel?

  3. Michael Wilson says:

    Where are the Big Ideas that go with truly great science fiction? Or in this case, that were behind the original PLANET OF THE APES novel and film? Sorry but this video game-type film (none of the apes seem to tire or get hungry or thirsty or get dirty or bloody from their actions like leaping and landing from impossible heights; they travel 30 or more miles and can still push a bus and climb under the Golden Gate bridge while battling humans…just like in a video game) falls so short for expressing anything of worth on a scale like the original source material.

    • WIDTAP says:


      So Ceaser is not treated for a bloody laceration after a fight with the neighbor. No Gorilla is shot or dies from bullet wounds on the Golden Gate Bridge? Further, modern apes have no more physical power, endurance or agility than overweight, diabetic modern humans? (I guess that adult apes are not as dangerous as they say the, eh?) Greed and Oppression, Vengeance and Revolution are not Big Ideas?

      What movie did you watch?

  4. NiceNurse says:

    It is a science fiction movie…it isn't supposed to be realistic. It is supposed to be entertainment. If you want reality come work at the hospital with me.

  5. mark42 says:

    Quit with the AIDs parallels, already! Do you have to spoil everything with your gay political agenda?

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