Movie Dark Fantasy vs. Biopharmaceutical Reality

Movie Dark Fantasy vs. Biopharmaceutical Reality

08.08.11 | By

A great movie script is about allowing the audience to suspend their disbelief. Science fiction movies, in particular, require great imagination and an ability to credibly postulate alternative realities. All of which brings me to the new movie that premiered this weekend: The Rise of the Battle for the Planet of the Apes.
Without revealing too much in the way of spoilers, I've read a couple of reviews already that outline the story. Apparently, the creation of essentially super apes who come to overthrow humanity is the result of some pharmaceutical company research gone awry. Like Frankenstein, it is the story of men meddling in science that they can not control. It is also a classic Sci-Fi convention: evil/stupid corporation creating uncontrolled and uncontrollable technology that leads to the destruction of humankind.
Now, I've no clear idea about the quality of the story, its acting or its entertainment value. I saw all the original Planet of the Apes series when I was a kid and enjoyed them - even the more cheesy ones at the end of the series. And, just as clearly (and as said above) like all fantasy and science fiction, suspension of disbelief is required to make the story work.
But I do want to rail for a moment against the trite movie convention of the evil pharmaceutical company purposefully or negligently pursuing research which results in harm to patients or, as in this case, humanity as a whole. Indeed, given the undeniable contribution that the biopharmaceutical research sector has consistently made to improving human health, fighting disease and extending life, stories that rely on such plot twists are misguided.
More disappointingly, plot premises like this do their audience a disserve. They overtly or subtly undermine understanding and appreciation for the real work of the scientific method as well as the research and development process. They engender fear of a process that while complex is incredibly regimented with enormous scientific, technical and regulatory checks designed to protect patient health and safety as well as the integrity of the science.
Of course, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a horror story and a fantasy. It isn't a science fact story like that of how the scientific and biopharmaceutical research sector worked to eliminate a disease like small pox from our lives, or how it has worked to find new treatments that have helped to turn HIV/AIDS from a death sentence to a manageable chronic condition. My point is that the reality of biopharmaceutical research, science fact if you will, should be a source both of inspiration and awe rather than fear.
Don't let the interjection of science fact wreck your entertainment should you go see The Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Just remember to re-acquire your disbelief once the popcorn is gone and the lights come up.

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