I finally got around to watching Rise of the Planet of the Apes this weekend, and while I thought it was really fun, it had that pseudo-science thing going on that is always very distracting, and was in this case close to offensive to respectable researchers and scientists.
I do have a little bit of a science background - I majored in Molecular Biology in college, put in one year of grad school before dropping out of the PhD program and going to work for a biotech company for a couple of years before chucking the whole thing entirely to move down to Bakersfield to help Tim start our first theater there.
However in this case, I don’t think anything more than common sense was required to be jarred by the poor science happening at GenSys.
In the first place, what reputable primate handler would be unaware that one of his test subjects was pregnant? Then, when their whole project is shut down by the aggressive behavior of Bright Eyes, which they subsequently diagnose as maternal protective instinct rather than a side-effect of the treatment, they don’t tell anyone. That’s actually more an inconsistency in the motivation of the characters than bad science. The movie was also plagued a bit by this, as when the same facilities head who is so quick to shut down the research with no attempt to try to correct the potential aggression side-effect turns a complete 180 with Version 2 of the serum, changing without warning from liability-phobic corporate lapdog to raging and irresponsible mad scientist.
Getting back to the shutting down of the program based on the aggression side effect - while this might not be bad science, it strays far afield from reality. It’s actually way more responsible than real-life companies who routinely release drugs to the public that cause side effects ranging from sterility and birth defects to insanity to death. Wasn’t there an oil used in snack food some years ago that forced companies to print on packaging that consumption of the product might cause anal leakage? What’s a little aggression? There’s always valium to soothe things down.
The thing that really got me going was Dr. James Franco’s solution to his father’s regression. Dad develops an immunity to the viral carrier that delivers the ALZ-12 to his cells. Genetic engineering and gene therapy techniques do use attenuated viruses to achieve their purpose. The protein shell of the virus is emptied of the viral DNA and refilled with whatever needs to get into the cell. But the viral shell still fulfills its original function to attach to cells and inject the newly engineered payload. As with any foreign intruder, the immune system learns to recognize the protein shell and develops antibodies to attack it. So far so good. But when this normal and easily forseen development occurs, Dr. James is shocked and depressed. What can be done? Why clearly, he must use a stronger, more virulent and aggressive viral carrier. I shouldn’t complain, because the common-sense solution, which would be to use a different and equally harmless viral carrier and keep changing it up as immunity develops, would not help to advance the fast spreading human infection plot-line which is necessary for the sequel.
Similarly, it’s necessary for the advancement of the same plot-line that a lab technician who is obviously seen by everyone else to be exposed to a brand new and highly untested serum should not be quarantined and kept under observation.
Finally, it’s clear that they didn’t do a very good job of attenuating the new delivery virus (removing the original viral DNA) because assuming that the actual effective serum element that worked so well the first time hadn’t been changed, the only difference should have been the viral shell, which should have had no inherent disease-causing agent. In fact, the result of the infection caused by contact with the infected lab tech should have been spread of the brain enhancing qualities of the serum. So either he changed up the effective ingredients of the serum for no reason, or he put it directly into a live virus. I reluctantly assent that an overdose of the serum caused by more effective delivery by a faster, more efficient viral shell could account for the deadly disease, but I would rather complain.
Either way, I’m glad everyone involved in the script works in Hollywood and not in a lab. I hope they didn’t have a consultant from a pharmaceutical company giving them input, or the world might really be in big trouble.